On Dec. 18, 2007, the Pinellas County School Board abandoned integration. They justified the vote with bold promises: Schools in poor, black neighborhoods would get more money, more staff, more resources. They delivered none of that.
This is the story of how district leaders turned five once-average schools into Failure Factories.See complete coverage below
Read the 2015 Pulitzer Prize-winning series
Prologue Aug. 12, 2015
Why Pinellas County is the worst place in Florida to be black and go to public school
A series of charts that sheds light on the county’s alarming failure rate.
Part One Aug. 14, 2015
How the Pinellas County School Board neglected five schools until they became the worst in Florida
First they abandoned integration. Then they failed to send help. Now, five once-decent schools in St. Petersburg are among the very worst in the state.
Part Two Aug. 21, 2015
Violence is a part of daily life in Pinellas County’s most segregated elementary schools
Five elementary schools had more violence than all 17 high schools combined.
Part Three Oct. 17, 2015
In five segregated schools, kids get worse teachers
An exodus of veteran teachers left rookies to take on some of the county’s most challenging students.
Video: Teachers describe worsening conditions
More photos of the children we interviewed
Hear from the kids Sept. 1, 2015
For 31 kids, this is what it’s like to go to resegregated schools
Children tell of fear, failing and a certainty that something better must be out there.
Part Four Dec. 6, 2015
45,942 days lost to discipline
Pinellas suspends black kids more than virtually every other big Florida district.
Part Five Dec. 23, 2015
For most black students in Pinellas, the county’s best schools are out of reach
District leaders made a series of decisions that added up to fewer black children getting into special programs called “fundamental” schools.
Epilogue Dec. 29, 2015
Trying to get out of some of the worst schools in Florida
Every family has its own story, but most want the same thing: To flee south St. Petersburg’s failing schools any way they can.
Hear from the School Board Aug. 14, 2015
7 elected school officials respond
We asked questions about the five schools in the series. Here’s what they said.
Pinellas breaks ground for new Melrose Elementary School June 1, 2017
Dozens of dignitaries, including Pinellas School Board members, business leaders and politicians, attended a groundbreaking ceremony last week to launch construction of a new Melrose Elementary school.
Pinellas' new program for suspended students is off to a slow start, but the school district looks for ways to improve May 30, 2017
It was a one-time thing. Kola Daodu Jr. and Adrian Floyd prefer not to talk about it.
Former Campbell Park Elementary principal Christine Hoffman will retire May 26, 2017
Former Campbell Park Elementary principal Christine Hoffman, who was under investigation for sending a directive to her staff that said white students should be in the same class when creating classroom rosters, has chosen to retire.
New Pinellas schools plan touted as 'turning point' that would tackle achievement gap in 10 years May 19, 2017
After more than a year of negotiations, the Pinellas County School District has reached a new agreement in a 16-year-old state lawsuit that accused it of shortchanging black students, unveiling a plan Friday to “greatly narrow” or close the achievement gap within a decade.
Antonio Burt, the high-profile leader of Pinellas' school turnaround effort, resigns May 5, 2017
Antonio Burt, who was hired to lead an aggressive effort to turn around eight of Pinellas County's lowest-performing schools, has resigned and will leave at the end of June.
Campbell Park principal will leave campus April 24, 2017
Christine Hoffman, the embattled principal of Campbell Park Elementary will leave campus while an "administrative review" is conducted, district officials said Monday.
White students at Campbell Park Elementary 'should be in the same class,' principal emails staff April 21, 2017
Principal Christine Hoffman emailed her staff at Campbell Park Elementary a detailed set of instructions on what classroom rosters should look like in the coming school year.
At High Point Elementary, 'English language learners' are beating the odds April 11, 2017
Something good is happening at High Point Elementary, but the experts can't quite explain it.
Pinellas 'Transformation Zone' schools showing signs of progress, officials say March 3, 2017
At eight of the lowest performing schools in Pinellas County, district officials see promising signs: academic growth, reductions in suspensions and discipline referrals, better teaching and improved attendance.
School on Saturday? Pinellas sees it as another way to reach struggling students February 6, 2017
Sitting in the school library on a brisk and breezy Saturday morning, Cadi Moorehead proudly held up two sheets of paper.
Pinellas lawsuit mediation closed to the public January 25, 2017
Mediation in Pinellas County's 50-year-old school desegregation case will occur behind closed doors, as the public has been banned from the sessions.
Friction mars talks in legal battle over Pinellas black students October 3, 2016
For the second time since settling 16 years ago, the plaintiffs in a 50-year-old desegregation case have forced the Pinellas County School District back to the table to try to ensure that black children get an equal education.
As Pinellas schools struggle with discipline disparity, one boy feels the impact August 5, 2016
When Constance Ellis enrolled her son at Bay Point Middle School, she didn't know that administrators took a hard line on discipline or that punishment, when it is handed out, is skewed against black students.
Three of five 'Failure Factories' schools improve school grades July 8, 2016
Three of the five struggling elementary schools in south St. Petersburg's black neighborhoods have improved their school grades for the first time in years.
University Preparatory Academy adds to problem of troubled Pinellas elementaries June 19, 2016
Three years ago, the founders of University Preparatory Academy believed they had the solution for students in south St. Petersburg.
Pinellas superintendent Mike Grego moves to overhaul leadership at troubled schools April 26, 2016
Principals at three of five failing elementary schools will be replaced at the end of the school year, the latest of several major steps being taken to transform the south St. Petersburg campuses, superintendent Mike Grego announced.
Pinellas moves to keep suspended students from sliding academically April 13, 2016
Amid public backlash for disproportionately disciplining minority students, Pinellas County school officials say they have created an alternative to out-of-school suspensions.
Black leaders skeptical about district plan to fix ‘Failure Factories’ Apr. 6, 2016
Black leaders on Wednesday vented frustration at being left out of new proposals to aid St. Petersburg’s black students and failing schools, but said they welcomed the spotlight that has been cast on the problems.
Facing pressure after ‘Failure Factories,’ Pinellas proposes sweeping fixes Apr. 5, 2016
District leaders released a broad set of recommendations aimed at repairing the damage done to schools in St. Petersburg's black neighborhoods after years of neglect, including paying teachers up to $25,000 more a year.
U.S. Education Department opens civil rights investigation into Pinellas schools Apr. 4, 2016
The investigation by the department’s Office for Civil Rights will determine if Pinellas systematically discriminates against black children.
Pinellas proposes pay bump up to $25,000 for teachers at struggling schools Mar. 29, 2016
Teachers and administrators at five struggling elementary schools stand to make up to $25,000 more next year, one of several major reforms proposed to transform the south St. Petersburg campuses, Pinellas County schools officials said Tuesday night.
Hired in wake of Times series, turnaround leader faces uphill battle Mar. 25, 2016
Antonio Burt will have to tackle school failure on a massive scale and work with leaders who have been reluctant to acknowledge the extent of the problem.
Parents speak out about five failing schools at NAACP forum Mar. 19, 2016
About 40 parents, school leaders and community members attended the forum to share their experiences in the five schools highlighted by the Times’ investigation.
Pinellas eases discipline policies; advocates call for more action Mar. 15, 2016
School Board members voted unanimously to punish students less harshly, but advocates said the changes were “baby steps.”
Legislators earmark $400,000 for struggling schools Mar. 10, 2016
The money will fund a reading program at the five elementary schools the Times’ investigation focused on.
Plaintiffs seek to reopen federal school desegregation case against Pinellas County Mar. 2, 2016
Citing broken promises by the Pinellas County School Board, the plaintiffs in a 50-year-old federal desegregation lawsuit announced Wednesday that they are going back to court in a bid to force school leaders to aid struggling black students.
Pinellas School Board limits out-of-school suspensions, fires back at critics Feb. 9, 2016
The Pinellas County School Board agreed Tuesday to ease the district's discipline policies by cutting the number of days a student can be suspended out of school and no longer deducting from their grades on make-up work.
Pinellas downplays problems at five schools, but hires leader to fix them Dec. 8, 2015
The Pinellas County School Board on Tuesday aired a video in which local business leaders praised district officials and downplayed the troubles at five failing elementary schools in south St. Petersburg. Minutes later, however, board members voted to hire a new administrator whose job will be to help turn those schools around.
Pinellas hiring turnaround leader for five schools Dec. 7, 2015
Pinellas County school superintendent Mike Grego is hiring a new administrator to oversee improvement efforts at the Failure Factories schools. The new position will provide principals “day-to-day” guidance.
U.S. education secretary blasts Pinellas schools for ‘education malpractice’ Oct. 24, 2015
“What has happened to too many kids, for too long, is unacceptable. It's heartbreaking,” Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said upon visiting Campbell Park. “Part of me wants to cry. Part of me gets very, very angry.”
Confederate flag punctuates Pinellas School Board discussion on failing schools Aug. 25, 2015
A longtime education activist unfurled a Confederate battle flag Tuesday in front of Pinellas County School Board members during the first School Board meeting after Failure Factories ran.
Black leaders say district broke promises, threaten to go back to court Aug. 24, 2015
Group’s letter to superintendent: “We feel the conduct of the district over the last five years has left us with no other alternative.”
Pinellas schools chief tries to reassure parents Aug. 21, 2015
A community forum on the topic drew a standing-room-only crowd of more than 150.
U.S. Rep Kathy Castor calls for federal review Aug. 18, 2015
“Our federal and state laws — and our values — require that all children, no matter what neighborhood in which they live, receive an equal opportunity to a high quality education,” she wrote. “That is not happening for the students in south St. Petersburg.”
Officials announce stepped-up efforts Aug. 17, 2015
The district plans to convert some of the failing schools to magnet programs.
Times education reporters Cara Fitzpatrick and Lisa Gartner, investigative reporter Michael LaForgia and photographer Dirk Shadd spent a year tracing how Pinellas County School District leaders have neglected their neediest schools. The articles were written while LaForgia was participating in the National Health Journalism Fellowship, a program of the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School of Journalism.