Pinellas schools meet or exceed health and safety practices

Pinellas County School Superintendent Michael Grego talks about the need for safety first during a discussion on bus schedules and a potential change to the start time for high school students at a Dec. 5 school board meeting.

LARGO – Pinellas County School District recently conducted a self-assessment of the school district’s current safety and security practices.

The annual assessment provides comprehensive data about how well the district follows safe and healthy school guidelines, allowing for strategic planning and problem solving leading to improvements in the system.

Clinton Herbic, associate superintendent of Operational Services, explained that state statutes require the district to use Florida Safe Schools Assessment Tool and report the results to the school board and the Commissioner of Education.

Herbic reported results of the assessment to the school board Dec. 5. In an executive summary to the board, he wrote that the assessment found that Pinellas meets or exceeds the best practices thresholds in all seven categories.

“The results of the assessment survey indicate that Pinellas has well-rounded and robust health and safety programs and procedures in place,” he wrote.

He noted several items that had been strengthened over the past year, including:

• Establishing a secure digital site to submit and store the annual emergency plan for each school. Principals can review and edit their plans throughout the year online as necessary. District personnel also can assess the plans for review and access to those plans is available in case of an emergency.

• Design of front office security options that account for behavioral and physical safety features. Herbic said principals have a “menu” to choose from to customize the security of their campus to meet their unique needs.

• Collaboration by school police with local law enforcement agencies and school administrators on training. Herbic reported that a collaborative agreement between school police and outside law enforcement had reduced arrests by 32 percent since its inception in 2012.

Transportation report

Herbic also reported on ongoing work to solve a problem with bus run times and a driver shortage in hopes of someday being able to move high school start times later. The main goal continues to get students to class on time.

However, it is challenging to provide service for students participating in Choice that may attend schools with long bus times to reach their destination. The good news is that progress is being made with the shortage of school bus drivers thanks to the recruitment, training and retention team.

School Superintendent Michael Grego said safety remained a priority with setting bus schedules. He also said it was important to get students to school in the morning in time to have breakfast. Although, the district would like to move high school start times later, other problems need to be solved first.

“It’s not a simple solution,” he said.

He said parents of elementary school students don’t want their children at school bus stops too early and parents of middle school students don’t want their children getting home later in the day.

Awards and recognition

Chairperson Rene Flowers recognized Grego who was recently honored as School Superintendent of the Year for 2018 by the Florida Association of District School Superintendents.

Grego, who had been an educator for 35 years, became Pinellas County’s superintendent in 2012. Before that he spent 28 years as a teacher in Hillsborough County and then served as Superintendent for the Osceola School District.

Since Grego came to Pinellas, the graduation rate climbed to 80.1 percent, an 8.2 percent increase since 2012-2013, and the highest in district history. The graduation rate for black students increased 9.1 percent and the graduation rate for Hispanic students increased 12.7 percent. In 2017, the number of A and B school

s in the district increased from 43 to 51 and the number of D and F schools decreased.

Grego thanked all the people who has helped him along the way and shared his award with teachers and staff, as well as school board members.

Lori Matway, associate superintendent for Student and Community Services, recognized Highpoint Elementary Principal Michael Feeney for being one of three state finalists for the Leonard Miller Principal Leadership Award.

Feeney has participated in the Executive PASS Program with business partner Tech Data for the past year. Matway said Feeney had developed a culture of excellence by fostering relationships with parents and community partners.

Denise Cochran from Tech Data and Feeney spoke to the school board with Feeney expressing his gratitude for what Tech Data had done for the school, including making sure every student has supplies and the many hours employees spend at mentor.

Matway pointed out that under Feeny’s leadership, High Point Elementary was one of four schools in the county to jump two letter grades this year and said the schools partnership with Tech Data was a huge contributing factor to their success.

Suzette Porter is TBN’s Pinellas County editor. She can be reached at