Advancing Literacy and Closing the Achievement Gap for students in South St. Petersburg

aka SPPF M.A.S.T.R. Kids Program   |   St Petersburg, FL   |
GuideStar Charity Check


EIN: 46-4930592


Our mission is to "advance literacy and help close the achievement gap in South St. Petersburg, FL". SPPF was created in 2014 by the family of the late Shirley Proctor Puller, a local teacher and literacy champion. We strive to provide educational services to underserved children in this "at-risk" community of Pinellas County. Our goal is to offset the effects of poverty and to help reverse the poor educational outcomes occurring today. The Core Program combines literacy and STEAM initiatives and is delivered during OOS times -- namely summer and after-school. Our mission is to advance literacy and close the achievement gap for students in South St. Petersburg. We believe that in doing this, we can significantly impact the future trajectory of the overall community and the city.

Ruling year info


Interim Executive Director

Bridgette Heller

Main address

4133 Cortez Way So.

St Petersburg, FL 33712 USA

Show more contact info



Subject area info

Community improvement

Youth services

Youth organizing

Population served info

Children and youth

Economically disadvantaged people

At-risk youth

NTEE code info

Children's and Youth Services (P30)

Youth Development Programs (O50)

Community, Neighborhood Development, Improvement (S20)

IRS subsection

501(c)(3) Public Charity

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

Tax forms


Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

The 2015 Tampa Bay Times Pulitzer Prize winning expose entitled “Failure Factories” compared the results of public elementary education in South St. Pete to those of other schools throughout Florida and nationally. Key facts/assertions include: - 8 of 10 students failed Standardized Reading tests; - 9 of 10 students failed math; 95% of black students tested are failing reading or math; - “these neighborhoods in southern Pinellas County are the most concentrated site of academic failure in all of Florida.” Although progress has been made, frustrated parents, community advocates and district leaders acknowledge the system continues to fail these students today. Data from the EduData portal for State, District and School 2021/2022 Report Cards shows that of the 12 public elementary schools served by the SPPF M.A.S.T.R. Kids Program, 9 (75%) had 3rd grade passing percentages less than the state average; 5 of them (41%) had percentages of 30% or below.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

M.A.S.T.R. Kids Program

Math - Art - Science - Technology - Reading: Educational Enrichment Programming serving underrepresented minorities in south St. Petersburg in key out of school times; after-school and summer. We also offer a tutoring program to kids in local schools by matching them with college students to improve grades, increase self esteem and develop community relationships.

Population(s) Served
At-risk youth
Economically disadvantaged people

Where we work

Our results

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

How does this organization measure their results? It's a hard question but an important one.

Number of students showing improvement in test scores

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Ethnic and racial groups, At-risk youth, Economically disadvantaged people, Children and youth, Students

Related Program

M.A.S.T.R. Kids Program

Type of Metric

Outcome - describing the effects on people or issues

Direction of Success

Holding steady

Context Notes

i-Ready assessments (pre and post our 8-week summer session) in Reading/Math determine student improvement. Goal 1: to prevent summer slide. These are percentages.

Number of students who demonstrate improved overall literacy

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Ethnic and racial groups, Children and youth, Students, At-risk youth, Economically disadvantaged people

Related Program

M.A.S.T.R. Kids Program

Type of Metric

Outcome - describing the effects on people or issues

Direction of Success


Context Notes

Goal 2: to have students show improvements toward Grade Level Reading. The number is the percentage of students with meaningful gains in i-Ready Reading scores.

Our Sustainable Development Goals

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn more about Sustainable Development Goals.

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

The Shirley Proctor Puller Foundation (SPPF) is a 501(c)(3) founded in 2014 to honor an inspiring educator from South St. Petersburg who served Pinellas County students for over 35 years. Our mission is “to advance literacy and close the achievement gap of children in South St. Petersburg.” Our primary program goals reflect this mission. We firmly believe that M.A.S.T.R. Kids students are talented, capable learners. With proper education/development, each one can achieve at levels similar to the majority population within the district and the nation.

We want every student attending our M.A.S.T.R. Kids After School Program to improve his/her grade level reading performance. Realistically, our goal is that 80% of students attending at least 70% of available instructional time posting improvement in his/her grade level reading performance, as measured by i-Ready pre and post assessments.

We want every student attending our M.A.S.T.R. Kids Summer Program to avoid the "summer slide." Realistically, at least 70% of students attending at least 70% of available instructional time will post zero learning losses in reading and in math.

In addition, a higher percentage of students attending the program for multiple years will achieve passing scores on FSA than peers from the community schools.

Our secondary goal is to help parents/caregivers and students become empowered champions for their education outcomes. This requires the organization to address several barriers identified in early research. Specifically:

1) Low engagement and knowledge -- parent engagement in community schools is low. Parents often lack the knowledge and/or confidence to navigate the bureaucracy of the school system. They report being “overwhelmed” and “intimidated”. They report feeling “in the dark” about their students’ overall school performance. They generally feel kids are “performing well” or “really not doing well”. They know if the student passed or failed the FSA. Typically, they cannot answer specific questions about performance — i.e. is the student reading at grade level? has the student mastered basic math facts? Why did the student fail the FSA?

2) Low ability to pay – in this community 42% of children under 18 live in poverty. It is infeasible to expect parents to pay a significant portion of HH income for academic intervention. Most parents expect quality education to be "free".

3) Mindset Barriers -- “Summer = Vacation” – summer is viewed by most as a time when children are free to play and socialize. It’s a “break” from school. At SPPF, we are working to help parents understand that summer months can be an opportunity to improve/acquire missing academic skills to improve performance.

The Shirley Proctor Puller Foundation's culture of learning uses five key strategies: 1) employing certified teachers and experienced Th, 2) adhering to small class sizes, 3) using evidence-based curriculum (e.g., Benchmark Advance, i-Ready, National Inventors Hall of Fame), 4) creating personalized learning plans for students who need more flexibility, and 5) using clear outcomes measurements.

Our goal is to close the achievement gap for underserved/underperforming, black/multi-cultural children in at-risk communities, starting with South St. Petersburg. To advance reading, math, and science literacy, helping to close the achievement gap for children in these “at-risk” communities, SPPF provides tools and support through our programs, as well as free book distribution at community events to continually promote reading as a catalyst for literacy.

Consistent with our culture of accountability, SPPF looks at pre- and post- i-Ready assessment data to ensure we are effectively helping students achieve better educational outcomes. i-Ready by Curriculum Associates, a proven platform highly rated for reliability and validity and strongly correlated to Florida state testing and standards. Importantly, independent studies validate i-Ready effectiveness with “striving” (two levels below grade) and diverse (Black, Latinx) students.

SPPF’s model of care serves as a sanctuary for struggling scholars where they are protected and encouraged to develop the academic and life skills needed to thrive in the face of environmental challenges at school, at home, and/or in community. As scholars gain confidence in their skills, their self-perception changes and they develop greater resilience. Our model represents many resources and activities that go into generating outputs and outcomes ranging from increased high school graduation rates and greater participation in STEAM careers.

Unlike many out-of-school time programs, our classrooms are led by state or nationally certified Teachers who have experience delivering success with children in “at-risk” environments. All teachers have at least a Bachelor's degree and are well versed in Florida standards and the science of reading. Teachers and Assistants have experience working with black/multi-cultural students and families.

Our team is predominantly made up of individuals living in South St. Petersburg and those who have lived experience of poverty, trauma, and educational inequity, similar to our families. SPPF leaders have deep relationships within PCS allowing them to effectively advocate on behalf of our students and to serve as trusted resources helping parents understand information coming from teachers or school administrators.

The Academic staff is supported by a leadership team with strong skills in business management and education. This team has the collective experience to make SPPF a solid operational entity today while enabling it to scale as we deliver our future goals. The Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Chief Operating Officer (COO), and Site Operations Leader all have experience building, scaling, and transforming large and small organizations. All are well equipped to navigate the complex relationships required across funders, Pinellas County Schools (PCS), and community stakeholders. 

- Volunteer CEO, Bridgette Heller, spent 35 years building accountable teams to drive growth of large businesses for global corporations.
- COO, Pam Williams, has 30+ years' experience providing training, transition, and turnaround services to nonprofits in the US and East Africa.
- Volunteer Chief Information Officer (CIO), Eliot Heller, has significant expertise in system design and analytics after working as Chief Medical Information Officer in large hospitals for 20+ years.
- Site Operations Leader, Darren Hammond, spent 37 years with PCS as a teacher, guidance counselor, and school administrator. He has Master's degrees in Educational Leadership, Curriculum and Instruction.
- Our Academic Leader, Keisha Snead, is a 25-year veteran teacher and leader from PCS.

The Shirley Proctor Puller Foundation (SPPF) was born out of an educator’s (Ms. Puller) dying concern for the educational future of children in her/our community. After a full year of listening to learn where we could have the greatest impact, SPPF M.A.S.T.R. (Math, Art, Science, Technology, and Reading) Kids launched as a summer program in 2016 serving about 50 students with a goal of avoiding the summer slide for as many students as possible. The program expanded in January 2020, with the help of a Juvenile Welfare Board grant, to include an after-school session with a goal of generating sustained academic improvements for students.

In just three years, SPPF grew from has grown from a summer program at one location serving 50 students into a year-round program at two locations serving up to 169 students during each session, 200 unduplicated over a 12-month time period.

SPPF M.A.S.T.R. Kids has proven success in helping students avoid the summer slide and closing the gap in reading achievement. Since inception, SPPF has helped over two thirds of our students avoid the summer slide each summer. In the 22-23 after school session, students reading at grade level improved from 28% to 48% overall. For the first time in SPPF history, SPPF effectively closed the achievement gap with 64% of students who were with us for a full year (from Aug’22 through July’23), 56 students, reading at grade level vs. only 27%, 22 students, at the start. Comparing the 64% to the 61% of whites reading at grade level across the county constitutes achievement gap closure!

This summer we launched the High School M.A.S.T.R. Plan (HSMP) initiative to help middle school students and early high school students successfully manage the transition to high school as only 58% of economically disadvantaged black students entering 9th grade with PCS in 2017/18, graduated in 2021. The program included a) core skill development and tutoring, b) planning tools to develop and maintain an evolving high school success plan, c) personality and career assessments, d) test preparation classes (PSAT, SAT, ACT) e) career awareness building coursework and “pre-apprenticeships.” At the end of the summer, 100% of participating students completed a career assessment framework and identified three areas of career interest that they will explore to learn more about as they move through the next couple of years into high school. HSMP has continued into the 2023-24 afterschool session.

We are striving to reach 500 unduplicated students annually by 2026, which represents about 11% of black and mixed-race children under 18 and living in poverty, in the South St. Petersburg community, most of whom we believe would benefit from ongoing academic enrichment services.  We believe that by reaching 500 students, SPPF can help create a tipping point to drive better outcomes across our community schools.

How we listen

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Seeking feedback from people served makes programs more responsive and effective. Here’s how this organization is listening.

done We demonstrated a willingness to learn more by reviewing resources about feedback practice.
done We shared information about our current feedback practices.
  • How is your organization using feedback from the people you serve?

    To identify and remedy poor client service experiences, To identify bright spots and enhance positive service experiences, To make fundamental changes to our programs and/or operations, To inform the development of new programs/projects, To identify where we are less inclusive or equitable across demographic groups, To strengthen relationships with the people we serve, To understand people's needs and how we can help them achieve their goals

  • Which of the following feedback practices does your organization routinely carry out?

    We collect feedback from the people we serve at least annually, We take steps to get feedback from marginalized or under-represented people, We take steps to ensure people feel comfortable being honest with us, We look for patterns in feedback based on demographics (e.g., race, age, gender, etc.), We engage the people who provide feedback in looking for ways we can improve in response, We act on the feedback we receive, We tell the people who gave us feedback how we acted on their feedback

  • What challenges does the organization face when collecting feedback?

    We don't have any major challenges to collecting feedback


Fiscal year: Jan 01 - Dec 31
Financial documents
2022 Shirley Proctor Puller Foundation
done  Yes, financials were audited by an independent accountant. info

Revenue vs. expenses:  breakdown

SOURCE: IRS Form 990 info
Note: When component data are not available, the graph displays the total Revenue and/or Expense values.

Liquidity in 2021 info

SOURCE: IRS Form 990


Average of 3.43 over 6 years

Months of cash in 2021 info

SOURCE: IRS Form 990


Average of 0.8 over 6 years

Fringe rate in 2021 info

SOURCE: IRS Form 990


Average of 3% over 6 years

Funding sources info

Source: IRS Form 990

Assets & liabilities info

Source: IRS Form 990

Financial data

SOURCE: IRS Form 990


Revenue & expenses

Fiscal Year: Jan 01 - Dec 31

SOURCE: IRS Form 990 info

Fiscal year ending: cloud_download Download Data


Balance sheet

Fiscal Year: Jan 01 - Dec 31

SOURCE: IRS Form 990 info

The balance sheet gives a snapshot of the financial health of an organization at a particular point in time. An organization's total assets should generally exceed its total liabilities, or it cannot survive long, but the types of assets and liabilities must also be considered. For instance, an organization's current assets (cash, receivables, securities, etc.) should be sufficient to cover its current liabilities (payables, deferred revenue, current year loan, and note payments). Otherwise, the organization may face solvency problems. On the other hand, an organization whose cash and equivalents greatly exceed its current liabilities might not be putting its money to best use.

Fiscal year ending: cloud_download Download Data


Financial trends analysis Glossary & formula definitions

Fiscal Year: Jan 01 - Dec 31

SOURCE: IRS Form 990 info

This snapshot of SHIRLEY PROCTOR PULLER FOUNDATION’s financial trends applies Nonprofit Finance Fund® analysis to data hosted by GuideStar. While it highlights the data that matter most, remember that context is key – numbers only tell part of any story.

Created in partnership with

Business model indicators

Profitability info 2020 2021
Unrestricted surplus (deficit) before depreciation $156,113 $453,455
As % of expenses 28.4% 51.1%
Unrestricted surplus (deficit) after depreciation $144,450 $437,870
As % of expenses 25.7% 48.4%
Revenue composition info
Total revenue (unrestricted & restricted) $706,714 $1,341,658
Total revenue, % change over prior year 0.0% 89.8%
Program services revenue 0.6% 0.7%
Membership dues 0.0% 0.0%
Investment income 0.0% 0.2%
Government grants 0.0% 54.9%
All other grants and contributions 99.4% 44.0%
Other revenue 0.0% 0.2%
Expense composition info
Total expenses before depreciation $550,601 $888,203
Total expenses, % change over prior year 0.0% 61.3%
Personnel 66.8% 68.6%
Professional fees 3.3% 2.1%
Occupancy 2.5% 3.8%
Interest 0.5% 0.0%
Pass-through 0.0% 0.0%
All other expenses 26.9% 25.4%
Full cost components (estimated) info 2020 2021
Total expenses (after depreciation) $562,264 $903,788
One month of savings $45,883 $74,017
Debt principal payment $38,604 $17,543
Fixed asset additions $0 $115,100
Total full costs (estimated) $646,751 $1,110,448

Capital structure indicators

Liquidity info 2020 2021
Months of cash 1.2 3.7
Months of cash and investments 1.2 3.7
Months of estimated liquid unrestricted net assets 1.7 5.4
Balance sheet composition info 2020 2021
Cash $55,676 $276,521
Investments $0 $0
Receivables $5,584 $90,420
Gross land, buildings, equipment (LBE) $57,447 $172,547
Accumulated depreciation (as a % of LBE) 22.0% 16.3%
Liabilities (as a % of assets) 16.7% 2.7%
Unrestricted net assets $106,769 $544,639
Temporarily restricted net assets N/A N/A
Permanently restricted net assets N/A N/A
Total restricted net assets $0 $0
Total net assets $106,769 $544,639

Key data checks

Key data checks info 2020 2021
Material data errors No No


The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

Form 1023/1024 is not available for this organization

Interim Executive Director

Bridgette Heller

Ms. Heller is an engaging, focused, inspiring leader with a proven track record of accelerating growth and profitability of consumer businesses. She brings a unique balance of strategic thought, executional excellence and people development to every leadership opportunity. Most recently, Heller served as the EVP, President of Nutricia, the Specialized Nutrition Division of Danone, an organization of over 20,000 employees represents 25% of Net Sales and 50% of company profits. The business led the industry in performance for three years driven by significant sales growth in China, Asia and Latin America. Prior to Danone, Heller worked as an EVP, President for Merck's Consumer Division and held executive positions for J&J and Kraft. Heller was a Board Member for Girls Inc's National for 10 years, 2 as Board Chair. In 2014, Heller cofounded SPPF to bring youth empowerment programs with proven outcomes into her "at-risk" hometown community and to close achievement gaps for K-8 youths.

Number of employees

Source: IRS Form 990


Officers, directors, trustees, and key employees

SOURCE: IRS Form 990

Show data for fiscal year
Compensation data
Download up to 5 most recent years of officer and director compensation data for this organization

There are no highest paid employees recorded for this organization.


Board of directors
as of 09/10/2023
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board of directors data
Download the most recent year of board of directors data for this organization
Board chair

Ms. Lisset Hanewicz

Gonazalez Hanewicz Law

Mario Farias

CEO-Managing Partner at Farias Consulting Group

Virginia Valenote

Retired Medical Office Manager

Laura Askew

Transitions Optical

Vivian Fueyo

Retired Educator

Mariana Bonow

TD SYNNEX Corporation

Kaley Johnson

Johnson, Pope, Bokor, Ruppel & Burns, LLP

Linda Lerner

Retired Educator & Pinellas County School Board Member

Cosey Proctor

Educator - South Barrington, IL

William Puller

Retired CPA

Tequena Akintonde

Educator - Pinellas County Florida

Kimberly McMillon

Hillsborough Community College

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Yes
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? Yes

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 9/8/2023

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? Candid partnered with CHANGE Philanthropy on this demographic section.


The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
Black/African American
Gender identity
Female, Not transgender (cisgender)
Sexual orientation
Heterosexual or straight
Disability status
Person without a disability

Race & ethnicity

Gender identity


Sexual orientation


No data

Equity strategies

Last updated: 09/08/2023

GuideStar partnered with Equity in the Center - an organization that works to shift mindsets, practices, and systems to increase racial equity - to create this section. Learn more

  • We review compensation data across the organization (and by staff levels) to identify disparities by race.
  • We ask team members to identify racial disparities in their programs and / or portfolios.
  • We analyze disaggregated data and root causes of race disparities that impact the organization's programs, portfolios, and the populations served.
  • We disaggregate data to adjust programming goals to keep pace with changing needs of the communities we support.
  • We employ non-traditional ways of gathering feedback on programs and trainings, which may include interviews, roundtables, and external reviews with/by community stakeholders.
  • We disaggregate data by demographics, including race, in every policy and program measured.
  • We have long-term strategic plans and measurable goals for creating a culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.
Policies and processes
  • We use a vetting process to identify vendors and partners that share our commitment to race equity.
  • We seek individuals from various race backgrounds for board and executive director/CEO positions within our organization.
  • We have community representation at the board level, either on the board itself or through a community advisory board.
  • We help senior leadership understand how to be inclusive leaders with learning approaches that emphasize reflection, iteration, and adaptability.
  • We engage everyone, from the board to staff levels of the organization, in race equity work and ensure that individuals understand their roles in creating culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.