Pinellas County Schools celebrates success of Summer Career Acceleration Program

Mark Hunt, executive director of the Office of Career, Technical & Adult Education, updates the Pinellas County School Board during an Aug. 27 meeting on the success of the inaugural year of Summer Career Acceleration Program.

LARGO — Ninety-two percent of the 122 students placed in Pinellas County Schools Summer Career Acceleration Program completed it successfully.

Mark Hunt, executive director of the Office of Career, Technical & Adult Education, announced the good news during the Aug. 27 School Board meeting.

In addition, 18 of those students received industry certifications during the seven-week summer program. Seven of the students that complete their internship received full-time jobs, Hunt said.

This was the first year of the program made possible by a partnership between the School District, Pinellas Education Foundation, Junior Achievement, Achieva Credit Union and more than 100 businesses.

The program is a combination of a paid summer internship, industry certification training and financial literacy program. The goal was to provide skills and experiences to help students achieve success after they graduate by gaining work-ready skills and technical certification.

Participating businesses reported great success with the program and touted the good work done by the interns. Students praised what they called an “amazing opportunity” to not only get a chance to be treated as adults in real work situations, but also the training they received in resume making and interview skills.

Hunt said planning had begun for next summer’s program with a goal to double the number of participating students.

School Board members also unanimously approved a memo of understanding with Pinellas Education Foundation for an expansion of its Elevating Excellence program, which began in the spring of 2018.

The program provides support for all high-achieving students with outreach for low-income and minority students. Support measures include academic counseling; parent and student engagement; help with college entrance exam preparation; college and scholarship planning and more.

As part of the program, a College and Career Center opened last year at Largo High School. The new MOU facilitates an expansion of the program and four more centers will be opened. The new centers will be at Boca Ciega High School in Gulfport, Gibbs High School in St. Petersburg, Clearwater High School and Pinellas Park High School.

Plans are in the works to expand the program to all high schools in the district.

Thanks to more than $2 million in philanthropic support from the Pinellas Education Foundation, four managers have been hired by the Foundation to work with district to work at the College and Career Center.

In his report to the board, Superintendent Michael Grego praised the work done to prepare for the first week of school, which led to a successful beginning of the school year, he said. He also briefed members about the district’s readiness to respond, if needed, during this year’s hurricane season.

Associate Superintendent Clint Herbic, who is in charge of operations, said 28 of the county’s schools served as hurricane shelters, which make up the majority of the county’s shelters.

“We are the storm shelters for Pinellas County,” he said.

Herbic also said that the school district staffs the shelters and when a decision is made to open them, he immediately reaches out to food services, transportation, maintenance and police.

“We’re ready to meet the needs,” he said.

Pinellas County Schools provided shelter to 28,000 during Hurricane Irma and only received one complaint, he said.

“We don’t want to make it a habit of opening shelters,” he said. “But if needed, we’re ready.”

Grego said that the busiest part of the hurricane season had arrived. In addition, on the day of the meeting, Pinellas County was in the five-day forecast cone for Tropical Storm Dorian.

In other business, School Board members:

• Unanimously approved a three-year agreement with K12 Insight LLC from Aug. 28, 2020-Aug. 27, 2022 to improve staff, family and community engagement via cloud-based technology, survey tools and professional development. The agreement provides access to the Let’s Talk software, which includes a mobile app.

• Heard from members of Faith and Action for Strength Together who are unhappy with the district’s implementation of Restorative Practices, which is designed to help staff work with students that have behavioral issues. FAST believes additional training and ongoing coaching is needed, as well as the use of restorative conferencing to address problems that are more serious.

School Board Chair Rene Flowers did not commit to any of the suggestions; however, she did ask Janice Metz, one of five representatives from FAST who spoke at the meeting, to ask the group if it would be willing to help finance additional training. FAST is made up of members from Pinellas County’s churches.

Suzette Porter is TBN’s Pinellas County editor. She can be reached at sporter@tbnweekly.com.