What's in a Blog?

By Craig Colgan

Florida's Pinellas County Schools endured a brutal 2004-05 school year. Two students died -- one in October and the other in February -- after they were struck by vehicles moments after stepping off school buses.

In March, police were called to a Pinellas school, where they handcuffed an unruly 5-year-old student as a teacher videotaped the entire episode. The St. Petersburg Times acquired the tape and placed it on its website for all to see. Soon national news media were running the story and the tape.

And other issues simmered as well, including a continuing controversy over desegregation and the district's student assignment plan.

The community's response to all of the above struck more than one note, and the volume at times was high. But amid the emotion could be found plenty of perceptive insight and clear-eyed suggestions.

How do we know about the community's response? We can read an important slice of it on a website called The Classroom. Written by Clayton Wilcox, the district's superintendent, The Classroom is a blog -- a fast-create, fast-reply site that, in times of high emotion, can quickly become a must-read for parents, politicians, and community leaders.

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