By DONNA WINCHESTER, Times Staff Writer
A watchdog group and Pinellas school officials disagree on the district's progress in closing the achievement gap.
ST. PETERSBURG - A citizens group that monitors how well Pinellas schools teach African-American children has concluded that the district has not acted in good faith to reduce the achievement gap between black and white students.
Eugene Givens III, a member of the steering committee for Concerned Organizations for Quality Education for Black Students, delivered a report to the group on Wednesday.
"No plan has been developed that has formulated measures and results that could be evaluated and revised annually," Givens concluded, noting that such a plan was required under the agreement to end court-ordered busing for desegregation.
Because the district has done too little, Givens said, the group will seek "available remedies" to see that it does.
Concerned Organizations for Quality Education for Black Students, or COQEBS, has been meeting monthly to monitor the district's progress in closing the achievement gap. The group includes members from other community groups and several prominent African-American educators. More than 60 people attended Wednesday's meeting at the James Weldon Johnson Library.
Jim Madden, a district official responsible for overseeing the implementation of the court order, met with its members last month and said he could deliver data showing the district is in fact meeting the provisions of the court order.
But Givens maintained that because the district never formulated a document called "The Plan," it cannot show a good-faith attempt to satisfy the court's demands.
Madden, reached for comment Wednesday afternoon, said the set of data the group is looking for does exist, but is not available in a single document.
The district has strategies to address the gap, Madden said, detailed in a series of documents that have been presented to the District Monitoring and Advisory Committee, established by the court order to oversee the district's efforts to educate black students.
At issue, Madden suspects, is the manner in which the data have been compiled.
"What I'm proposing is that we take a step back, look at where we've been and make an effort to see if we can provide the data in a much more user-friendly fashion," Madden said.
But COQEBS members say they are tired of waiting. They already have contacted Enrique Escarraz, the attorney who negotiated the court order.
School superintendent Clayton Wilcox, who attended Wednesday's meeting, promised to take responsibility for the district's future efforts to educate black students.