Dr. Clayton Wilcox Addresses School Challenges

Pinellas School Superintendent Talks About Education Challenges

Dr. Clayton Wilcox, Superintendent of Pinellas County Schools addressed nearly 300 FCSR members, their guests and several public officials at the Fort Harrison Hotel auditorium in an enlightening and entertaining briefing about the his observations and plans for improving the qualify of education in the Pinellas County School system.

Dr. Wilcox began by pointing out that he is the CEO of a $1.2 billion entity, which is also the 22nd largest school district in the nation. His district comprises 15,000 employees, 113,000 students, 839 buses that travel 75,000 miles a day and lunchrooms that serve 70,000 meals daily.

Much of Dr. Wilcox’ talk centered on the “No Child Left Behind Act,” signed by President Bush in 2002 and designed to make schools accountable, as measured by annual performance gains. NCLB requires annual testing and annual report cards to ensure that every child reads on or above his grade level.

Dr. Wilcox showed several charts and graphs of math competencies in Pinellas with 17 year-old African American and Hispanic students at the same level as 13 year-old white students. Reading competency graphs mirrored the same–17 year-old Latin and African American students at the same level as 13 year-old whites. 60% of fourth graders read below a basic level.

Faced with these and other statistics of the lack of progress, Dr. Wilcox explained that he had the overriding responsibility of “making sure your students are educated” and “to make improvements so that there is absolute student achievement for all”.

“I must find or create a sense of urgency that it is improvement that counts” said Dr. Wilcox. “Great teaching matters. No one is going to learn from someone they don’t like or respect. We will teach and our students will learn the next thing they need to know when they need to know it. If they don’t know the word, they don’t go on until they know the word; if they don’t understand the concept, they won’t go on until they do.”

Dr. Wilcox has traveled to various venues in the County with his “listening tours” to gather public opinion about the school system. His regular column, “The Classroom,” in the St. Petersburg Times also invites participation in online discussions on education.

In closing, Dr. Wilcox encouraged members of the audience to take responsibility for their schools. “Get involved and help us. Volunteer.”