Jim Jackson says it’s time to seriously explore the idea of splitting the Pinellas County School Board in two.
Jackson, one of nine candidates in the St. Petersburg City Council District 6 race, writes on the platform he would enact if elected: “While all of School Districts [sic] in the state are structured by county, there has been a discussion for years of splitting the Pinellas Schools into two districts separated approximately by Ulmerton Road.”
Florida has 74 separate school boards, one for each of the 67 counties, along with four laboratory schools (operated by Florida A&M University, Florida Atlantic University, FSU and UF), the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind, the Florida Virtual School and then Okeechobee Youth Development Center.
“I believe that an independent school district is a worthwhile endeavor to be explored” he states. “I look forward to a vibrant discussion what could be a transformative moment in the history of St. Petersburg.”
For more than four decades, Jackson worked in the Florida public school system and previously ran for the Pinellas County School Board in 2010 and 2012.
He’s now in the ultracompetitive District 6 council race this summer.
In a follow-up email, Jackson says: “There is tremendous knowledge of the educational challenges in St. Petersburg by residents in the area that has not been fully utilized. While creating a separate school district for St Petersburg would be a long process, it cannot be any longer than the next ten year plan the District has rolled out in response to the litigation brought by several groups on the Southside.”
He adds that a current member of the City Council “floated the idea to me about an autonomous City of St Petersburg School District.”
Jackson is lauding Melrose Elementary in South St. Pete — one of the five schools featured in the Tampa Bay Times “Failure Factories” series from 2015 — went from an “F” school to a “C” school in grades released last week, but he questions whether it would be sustainable.
‘Where all students have made small incremental improvements on overall achievement, the gap between white students and minority students remains the same,” he writes. “Students in South County would also benefit with greatly expanded apprenticeship programs in the various trades. We are still in a building boom in St Petersburg and we know we need skilled adults in the trades to rebuild our infrastructure.”
Jackson holds both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in medical sociology from Ohio State University. He was a full professor of psychology and sociology at Miami-Dade College, and served as adjunct professor at the University of Miami, Florida International University, and St. Petersburg College’s Gibbs Campus.
In addition to Jackson, the other candidates running for the District 6 seat include Corey Givens, Jr., Maria Scruggs, Sharon Russ, Akile Cainion, Gina Driscoll, Justin Bean, James Scott and Robert Blackmon.