PRESSURE GROUP DEMANDS ACTION FROM SCHOOL BOARD FOR BLACK STUDENTS by Roxanne Escobales

12/18/06

In Pinellas County, less than a quarter of black males graduate from high school. Today at the Enoch Davis Center in the heart of St Petersburg’s Midtown, black community leaders drove that figure home at a press conference to once again put pressure on the school board to help black students. WMNF’s Roxanne Escobales reports.

As a result of an ongoing class-action lawsuit filed in 2000, Pinellas County Schools were ordered by the court to take seven steps to promote higher levels of learning for black students. But almost seven years later, the pressure group COQEBS says Pinellas has done nothing. Black kids still perform 20 to 40 percent below their white counterparts.

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Vyrle Davis is the co-chair of COQEBS, or Concerned Organizations for Quality Education for Black Students. He lists the seven areas Pinellas County Schools were ordered to improve:

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Coqebs latest initiative, called the Campaign to Close the Gap, aims to collect petitions and rally community support for its cause, while extending its reach to North Pinellas County. Reverend Louis Murphy says the effect of such a wide chasm can be felt in the three-quarters of young black men that don’t graduate high school.

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But a study commissioned by the Pinellas County School Board and released a week and a half ago found that the achievement gap starts in the early years, before black students enter school. When WMNF asked the group to respond to the study’s findings, the N-double-A-C-P’s Trinia Cox did not let the school board off the hook.

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The study also found that Pinellas schools did nothing to make the inherent gap worse. But Close the Gap campaign co-chair Gwendolyn Reese says that’s no major triumph.

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The Reverend Prentis John Davis went one step further and said something most would perhaps like to ignore.

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Despite the flaws of the system and historical factors, some like the Reverend Louis Murphy say the black community must take responsibility as well.

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On Thursday, the N-double-A-C-P Legal Defense Fund will meet with School Board attorneys for ongoing mediation talks. In particular they will look at whether the schools have complied with the seven-point court order.

The Close the Gap campaign is collecting petitions to take to the meeting. For more information and to sign a petition, go to powerbrokermagazine.com.

Roxanne Escobales. WMNF News. Midtown, St Petersburg.

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President

Is COQEBS a group of coounty officials past and present that are attempting to take ove the Bradley case? Is there a lot of money to be made by the officials and the Lawyers if COQEBS takes over the case. Is the County in partnership with COQEBS and in favor of the take over. If so would this simply be the School Board taking over the case and policing themselves?