As the 2013-14 school year ends, I want to take a moment to congratulate the thousands of graduating seniors, commend them on their innumerable accomplishments and wish them well as they enter the next phase of their lives.
I also want to thank all of those who have guided and supported them, and all of our students, this past year. Parents, teachers, coaches, extended family members, support staff and our community partners all play such a pivotal role in the success of our students, and I offer my heartfelt appreciation for all that you do.
Our community has so much to celebrate as the school year comes to a close. This past year, Pinellas County Schools was named an Advanced Placement District of the Year for increasing access to AP coursework and raising the pass rate percentage. We were also honored nationally as a model district by the Ford Foundation for its Ford Next Generation Learning Academies of Pinellas five-year plan. I am particularly thrilled about the significant gains that so many of our students showed this past year on their reading, writing and mathematics scores on various standardized tests. We are truly raising expectations and our students are showing they are up to the challenge.
This year, we gained traction on a number of new initiatives focused on boosting student achievement. This summer, for the second year, we are continuing our Summer Bridge extended learning programs throughout the district. These summer programs, including a new Algebra boot camp for middle school students, are designed to mitigate summer learning loss to better position students to start next school year at or above grade level. This past year, we also instituted programs that facilitated additional time for instruction in reading, math and science, and provided a wealth of digital resources for students to support their learning outside of the classroom. In addition, we have greatly increased the number of STEM Academies at our schools in an effort to better prepare students for the global demands of the 21st century.
We are aggressively confronting achievement gaps with the district’s new Bridging the Gap plan. The initiative, which aligns with the district’s Strategic Plan, has five key goals aimed at raising achievement levels, increasing graduation rates and improving student engagement for African American students throughout the district.
To further support student achievement, we have launched “Pinellas Pathways to Graduation,” which helps students successfully complete the requirements for earning a high school diploma, and assists them with planning for their future.
While we have made many gains this year, there is still much work to do. In the coming months, I will share with you some of the projects and programs we are diligently working on to help us as we continue to strive for 100 percent student success.
I hope all of our students find time to relax this summer and spend time with family and friends. I also hope that families will help provide students with educationally enriching activities this summer. Research shows that students lose knowledge over extended breaks, so it is of vital importance that they flex those brain muscles over the summer. Please encourage the children in your lives to read a little each and every day this summer. The benefits will be evident as we prepare to begin the 2014-15 school year in just a few short months.
Have a safe and restful summer!
Michael Grego is superintendent of Pinellas County Schools.