April 18, 2016. BayNews9.com
ST. PETERSBURG — Nearly 3,000 people gathered at Tropicana Field Monday night to come up with solutions for problems ranging from issues in the schools to problems with Pinellas County’s phone system for getting help.
Organizers for the Faith and Action for Strength Together Nehemiah Action Assembly have come up with a list of problems they said are plaguing the community.
They said one of the things they are most concerned about is the high rate of out-of-school suspensions in Pinellas County Schools.
“What we’re asking for is instead of an out-of-school suspension, to replace it with a program, a supervised program, where there are people in the rooms who can help the students get back on track,” said Linda Stoller.
They would also like to see more of a focus on improving low reading scores.
“I would like to see the curriculums change. I think if they had an appropriate curriculum where all the kids could learn from it and everybody is doing basically the same thing,” said Montez Shelby, whose grandson was held back when he was in public schools.
FAST is also tackling homelessness. The organization said the county’s 211 system designed to help people in crisis isn’t working.
Susan Henry said she called 211 after being forced out of her home because of flooding.
“I had to go to work. I was at work trying to make these phone calls. I was on hold for an hour and a half, finally got a hold of somebody and they hung up,” she said.
FAST is asking county commissioners to come up with a plan to reduce the average wait time to 90 seconds so callers can get the help they need.
“I feel confident our elected officials will listen to the people,” said Stoller.
Since it was formed in 2004, FAST has spearheaded improvements in a number of areas including affordable housing, drugs and crime, dental needs and job creation.