As data regarding things like graduation rates and reading levels is periodically released, the substantial achievement gap between black and white students in Pinellas County has become a growing concern year by year.
Statistics show that the quantity of black students in Pinellas who are performing below grade level is larger than any other Florida county; the amount of black students below grade level in both reading and math was over 60 percent according to the latest data (2011). That same year, only 47 percent of black high school students graduated.
Wednesday morning, a standing room only crowd packed into St. Petersburg's Studio@620 to hear from the city council and mayoral candidates on the subject of art. The debate focused on the candidates vision, perception and funding plans for the arts in St. Pete.
Some of St. Petersburg's longtime unofficial artists in residence were in attendance, including photographer Herb Snitzer, Pale Horse Gallery artist and owner Chris Parks, and half of Spathose's industrial art team George Medeiros. Everyone there was hoping for answers to pressing questions as the city potentially welcomes a slew of new elected officials.
"Each city has its own DNA," said Roy Binger, who sits on the Museum of Fine Arts and Palladium's board of trustees. "We've got Central Ave., Beach Drive, Fourth St., and Tyrone. Each has its own target. We need to bring this mosaic of art together in a seamless way."
Mayoral and city council candidates had their work cut out for them. None are as notoriously supportive to St. Petersburg's burgeoning art scene as exiting city councilwoman Leslie Curran (who was in attendance), who's credited as one of the movers and shakers behind the city's 600 Block arts revival.
St. Petersburg City Theatre Executive Director Deborah Kelley moderated, leading off with "we are going to ask you who you are, who we are (the art community), how you view us, and how you will support the arts community."
The future of journalism was the connecting theme of a version of the popular online Ted Talks series last Friday at the Poynter Institute in downtown St. Petersburg. A crowd of mostly media insiders listened to topics ranging from copyright issues and viral media to fact checking and the role of new media.
The Poynter Institute is borrowing a style of discourse from the successful Ted Talks that focus on disseminating new ideas on three varied subject matters; Technology, Entertainment and Design. The Tedx formats are independently organized but are conducted within the Ted Talks' structure. The Poynter Institute is a non-profit school of journalism that teaches through traditional class room settings as well as online webinars. Elynn Angelotti is a social media faculty member at the Poynter Institute. She said the blueprint used by Ted Talks is a good fit for Poynter’s third Tedx event.
"What they've done is provide us with a framework to create powerful engaging; much briefer talks than we typically do here at Poynter. So, it's a different tempo. It's a different style. But it's an engaging platform that helps us invite the Tampa Bay community and the larger journalism community into an event where we can realty learn from innovative thinkers.”
At least someone was talking about education at the RNC, and I got a full (if one-sided) crash course on the accountability vs. teacher rights debate at a screening of the new film Won't Back Down, which stars Maggie Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis and Holly Hunter. It depicts a parent-teacher revolt against a tyrannical and laissez-faire teachers' union to take over a failing school.
StudentsFirst presented the film to RNC delegates, educators and the press in the Straz Center's Morsani Hall. A reception celebrated the film with school-themed decor, Mediterranean hors d'oeuvres, and entertainment by Caroline Kole and Blues Traveler (who amusingly started their set with "The Imperial March" from Star Wars). The crowd was treated to Coke products, free popcorn and all the movie candy you cared to chow down on.
Summer vacation — we've all tasted it at some point in our lives. Many of us now have love/hate relationships with the break. Those fond memories of hot days spent at the beach, salt on your lips and sand between your toes can be haunting when you think of how much you took them for granted as a youngster. The reality of it all is this cruel thing known as "life" that sets in just when you've acquired the freedom (and responsibility) that usually comes with age.
For most, three-month vacations have became an untouchable thing of the past — that is, until it all comes back full circle and now it's your own kids home full-time making you batshit crazy.
So what can you do to keep them entertained, and in essence, avoid becoming certifiable?