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The conspiracy to take down Connie Hall by “paid for” media

Unless you have been under a rock you have heard about the text messages sent by Connie hall saying “I vote fire him now” and  “special ed in action” when referring to superintendent Vitti.

Where I agree with most “special ed in action” was in poor taste I believe I can make the case that Connie Hall was set up by the district along with the media and special interests and they are trying to rail road her and that more than her comment is what should outrage us.

First of all WJCT has led the coverage with most of the other media parroting what was written and reported there. WJCT is not known for breaking news, why were the text messages sent to them and not all the news outlets?

Well it may be because WJCT’s education coverage is funded by Gary Chartrand, charter school proponent and huge backer of superintendent Vitti, whose repeated actions have backed Chartrand’s corporate style reforms.  The expansion of charter schools, the marginalization of teachers etc.

Then the media has said over and over they don’t know why the Miami law firm that made the public records requested that exposed the emails  targeted Connie Hal.

From WJCT:

 Robert H. Fernandez, an attorney with Zumpano Castro law firm, requested Hall’s texts and emails, along with those of board members Paula Wright and Becki Couch. A phone message to the firm asking why it targeted the three was not returned by this story’s deadline.


I know why and I have known since the minute the story broke and I am not an education reporter, or you know someone who is paid to know and follow these things.

Back in the fall Connie Hall along with Becki Couch and Paula Wright voted against a new Charter Schools USA project and that outraged them and since they are nothing but bullies, they have threatened to sue me twice for blogs I have written, they sent their lawyers after them to intimidate the school board members.

The following piece by Julie Delagul appeared in Context Florida, the Folio and other media last December.

 First the lobbyist from the Florida Charter School Alliance wanted to meet with a sitting Duval School Board member – privately. But when former Duval School Board Chairwoman Becki Couch suggested they “notice” the meeting and invite her fellow school board members to join them, lobbyist Ralph Arza said no. He asked her again to meet privately and, in an email dated Sept. 15, Couch declined again.
Then came the vote on the application for a new Charter Schools USA operation in Jacksonville. District staff had recommended denying the charter school application twice before, but in advance of the Oct. 20 vote, Superintendent Nikolai Vitti told the board that the organization had assuaged his worries. The application, however, had not changed.
With lobbyist Arza in the audience Oct. 20, the board voted 4-3 to approve the charter school. Couch and two other board members, Connie Hall and Paula Wright, were the three who voted to deny the application.
Next came the public records requests from South Florida lawyer Robert H. Fernandez, aimed at Couch, Hall, and Wright. The first one, dated Nov. 10, wanted the three members’ travel records, including reimbursements, along with salary and benefit information. Travel reimbursements are popular fodder for future ethics complaints: Just ask New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, or former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown.
Fernandez’s second public records request, dated Nov. 16, sought documents regarding the three board members’ communications – with each other and with a laundry list of nine other individuals. Fernandez even asked for cell phone text records.

So when the media says he we have no idea why the law firm requested the texts it is either being disingenuous or it means we have some really crappy media.

Then why were the texts released when they were after all the requests were made months ago? Maybe it was to distract from the release of school grades or maybe because there is momentum building around the city because of the way Vitti treats teachers and the disastrous curriculum he picked, to replace him. It’s my bet the people behind the release wanted to give him cover and garner sympathy for him. They held the texts like a trump card playing it when they felt it would do the most good.

So let me sum up, all this is, is Gary Chartrand’s private media source breaking a story that targeted a foe of us his and an at best willfully ignorant media that is only giving the people of Jacksonville half the story. When the media does the bidding or corporate interests we all lose and that more than what Connie Hall said should outrage us.

Discipline in Duval Couty

Now that's funny.

Duval is now a B district. How do I know? Because Superintendent Vitti told me so.

I received the following note from the superintendent and I felt since his emails are open to public records searches I would share it with you.

Chris,

It was brought to my attention that a previous blog of yours suggested that under my leadership the district's school grade dropped to a "C" for the first time. For accuracy purposes, the district's grade fell to a "C" in 2011-12, which was before I became superintendent. To that point, I would only expect that you correct that information and now highlight that we are a "B" district. It will be interesting to see how you address the matter considering the facts.

NV

Here is the thing I will occasionally get things wrong and I encourage people to set me straight because it does me or my argument no good to get things wrong.

I went back and checked and the super is right. The district slid to a C the year before he came. It remained a C his first two years and then for the 14-15 school year the state graded Duval a B.  The superintendent is right and I want to thank him for pointing that out.

I am not a big fan of our grading system. I believe it is a disaster and the only thing it can be used for is to compare districts to each other because all the districts are playing with the same crappy system. Now like the super I think it is silly to compare us to districts like Clay and St. Johns but I think it is okay to compare us to the other big, urban districts.

Overall however I feel like the system is terrible and should be disregarded and you know who agrees with me, or agrees with me when convenient that is? It’s superintendent Vitti and I will let his words do the talking for him.

Despite predicting that the number of D and F schools in the district would more than double from last year, Vitti said changes to the state’s accountability system since last year make it impossible to compare 2013-14 to 2014-15. For instance, in 2013-14 the schools were protected from dropping more than a letter grade by a state-mandated safety net. This year that provision is gone.

Vitti says new state standards ensure that there will be over 100 D and F schools in Duval County based on an arbitrary cut line and a test that hasn’t been fully vetted.
No one disputes the need for accountability in the public schools. But the standards must be fair. They must be reasonable.
And they should be broad enough to factor in the full school experience and not be based on just a few tests.
What concerns Vitti is that whenever the standards are changed so arbitrarily, the struggling students, teachers and administrators in low-income neighborhoods are hurt the most.
“There was never a question of whether the FSA was aligned to the new standards and therefore was valid in that sense,” said Vitti. “Unfortunately, a validation study did not address what was at the center of concerns for parents, teachers, and administrators...that the use of FSA for the purposes of school grades, retention, and teacher/administrator evaluation was unfair, illogical, impractical, and defied best practice regarding proper field testing. In other words, the use of the results to make decisions about students’ future and the performance of schools, teachers, and administrators.
“The FDOE and the State of Florida missed the opportunity to make the right decision,” Vitti said. “As a result, the legacy of a needed and strong accountability system for our students will continue to be questioned. I only hope now that the test will remain the same and the measures to define proficiency and growth after this year’s changes remain the same for the purposes of consistency and transparency. If this does not happen, then Florida’s accountability system is doomed.
I could go on and on as the superintendent has said over and over how the accountability system has been changed to the point of irrelevancy.
When the super was predicting 100 F and D schools to everyone who would listen then the grading/accountability system was horrible. Now that State has rigged the game and that’s what the state did, they fixed it so there would basically be the same amount of A-F schools this year as last year, now the super is saying “Hey it’s okay after all. Look here Guerrieri we’re a B district now.” Fair enough but who wants to bet if the grade would have remained a C, then I wouldn’t have got that note.
And that’s the thing, every positive thing no matter how small is parade worthy to the super, he feels like he can do a victory dance and every negative thing no matter how big gets a “who me" shrug of the shoulders, it’s that the accountability system has been changed over and over or its communication between admin and teachers, or teachers just don’t know how great the new curriculum is yet.  Vitti has been really great at two things, taking victory laps whether they are deserved or not and making excuses.  http://jaxkidsmatter.blogspot.com/2015/02/superintendent-vitti-is-great-at-one.html

I am not the only one questioning Vitti's sincerity either.
from the Tampa Times

Florida's 2015 school grades became official Friday, concluding a months long saga over their validity and how superintendents across the state lost confidence in the new grading system. Some speculated that no one would care about the debut of the new grades based on the Florida Standardized Assessments.

But apparently Pinellas and Hernando counties, along with Duval County, still care. These three counties sent press releases Friday championing their improvements.
So yes to use the super’s words it is a fact we slid to a C the year before he got here and the state graded us a B this year those are facts.
The truth however is we are in trouble and the main reason is we have a super who is more interested in looking good and getting the last word rather than doing what is right. We have had successes, lots of them but I believe the vast majority of them have happened in spite of the super not because of them. 

Is Duval purposely low balling its teacher evaluations?

Is Duval purposely low balling its teacher evaluations?

If you are not on professional contract and you get a highly effective evaluation you just got a 2,000 dollar raise.  That’s good money there.

The problem is in Jacksonville it is nearly 2.5x harder to get a highly effective evaluation than it is in the rest of the state.

In Jacksonville only 14.8 percent of teachers received a highly effective evaluation while statewide that number was 37.5 percent.

If Duval just met the state average that would be about 1,500 more teachers receiving highly effective evaluations. Which cold cost the district millions. Money Vitti couldn't spend on whatever his computer program du jour is.

Let’s face it we have a terrible and unwieldy evaluation system. The cast makes convoluted things look downright manageable and now we may know why.

I would say the district was nickel and diming teachers but the reality is the district is costing teachers real money.

Want to know how many teachers were rated highly effective at a particular school? Click the link: 

Speak to the School Board 2/11/16

I have to say these are the three members of the board that seem like they are willing to listen the most. if you have something to say now is the time.

Academic coaches are colleagues not bosses

I don’t want to anger any coaches that are readers, I know like teachers the vast majority of you are professionals and work just as hard as anyone else but below is a story I have heard more and more frequently as principals make coaches part of their leadership team and people think coaching is a stepping stone to administration. Academic coaches are colleagues not bosses and this is something a few of them seem to forget.

 From a reader 

At my school we have a fairly new principal and they are allowing our reading coach to run the entire show in regards to ELA.

Fast forward to today and the district has piled all these requirements on us with the new curriculum. In addition to that, our reading coach is forcing us to do all of this work with materials that have little to do with what we are actually teaching. 

When asked how we are supposed to find time, they put up their hand up, as in talk to the hand. This was supposed professional minimizing and ignoring the concerns of another professional. A colleague not a subordinate. 

So after that was added then we were told we have to work on portfolios during our rotations. We have to go through every single student and mark each standard they mastered on the scrimmage. If they didn't pass a standard we have to reteach the standard in rotations. We have to create gradual release lesson plans for each standard and at the end of each week the students will be given a test to see if they've mastered the standard. There are also weekly writing essay tests given. We don't have time to grade the essays before it's time to give the next essay.

 There are 6 ELA teachers in grades 3-5 at our school. We all feel the same way….overwhelmed and at our breaking point. 4 of us got together to meet with the principal. We voiced our concerns about how they were putting too much on us and that we can't possibly do it all. We are all good teachers at an A/B school. After saying again that the reading coach is pushing us too far, and the principal backing her up, two of us began to cry. 

One of us said you're just asking too much of us. Another asked him if he was willing to give up his entire ELA team so this reading coach could continue on their power trip (to many of us they seem to be trying to invent a need for themselves at our school). Their reply was, "You're welcome to transfer." That was the ultimate slap in the face. We weren't given any supplies to teach these individual standards during rotations. We've requested a TDE to check off which students have met the standards, but we just don't get a response to our emails.

A teacher crying at work because of what other adults did is unacceptable but it happens more often than people think. These teachers are frustrated, exhausted and at the end of their ropes and they deserve better than shrugs of the shoulders from their principal and a run away coach piling on.

And friends if this is happening at one of our high performing schools, what’s happening at other schools less fortunate? An entire ELA team ready to quit. 

We are never going to reach our potential as long as we minimize and disregard our teachers like this, never.

JPEF says that while they support the Urban Education Symposium, they didn't create their agenda.

This years agenda was how to get more black students to attend charter schools.

JPEF says this despite the fact the symposium was promoted on their web-site, Gary Chartrand the founder and a board members of JPEF and a huge charter school proponent was a featured speaker and they admit providing materials for the conference they didn't really have anything to do with it.

Below is a note I received for Trey Csar the president of JPEF and you can decide for yourself what their motives were but I for one remain convinced their motive was to recruit students away from our public schools to attend charter schools.

...

I wanted to to take a moment to clarify for both you and your readers that the 8th Annual Urban Education Symposium (UES) held last weekend was not a Jacksonville Public Education Fund event.  In some of your recent posts, the Symposium appears to be characterized as an event primarily put on or sponsored by JPEF.

This is not only an inaccurate representation of JPEF’s role in the event but also a disservice to the Jacksonville Community Engagement Group (CEG), who have been putting on this event since before JPEF existed.
While the UES is not a JPEF event, we are among a number of community organizations involved with supporting the Community Engagement Group’s efforts to bring the symposium together every year, primarily through providing a written data update that goes into the event’s program booklet. We promoted the event on our calendar (as you highlighted in a previous post) the same way we do for any relevant education event in Jacksonville.  

We continue to provide that service because we have a deep commitment to improving racial equity in our city’s education system, and believe that the CEG has been instrumental in keeping the challenges facing Jacksonville’s young black men front and center in the public discussion. As I said at our ONE by ONE Convention a few weeks ago, we know our city can’t succeed until all of our children succeed, and CEG’s focus on young black men is vital to this goal.

For more information on the sponsors of this year’s UES and steering committee members, I encourage you to visit their website at http://www.urbanedsymposium.org/.

Trey Csar

Superintendent Vitti cannot serve two masters (rough draft)

On Saturday Education Matters reported that district partner the Jacksonville Public Education Fund was pushing a symposium on charter schools to the districts kids, specifically those on the north and west sides of town. Let me repeat that in case I gave the wrong impression, the district wasn’t pushing it but its partner JPEF was, this is the same JPEF that will be putting on the Teacher of the Year ceremonies in a couple weeks and manages the Quality Education for All funds and puts on various other activities.

I and many others was outraged by this. If you run a business and one of your contractors was trying to steer your customers to another business then you would probably stop doing business with that contractor. However since this is Duval JPEF might get a bonus.

Education activist Bradford Hall wrote the super a letter and the super replied and I have included that below.

Here is the thing, even if we take everything that the super wrote at face value it does not matter because the super cannot serve two masters. He cannot continue to approve charter schools that even he says have a poor chance of being successful and that as a group either under perform or are set up in neighborhoods that already have successful schools and then say look I am doing all I can to bring kids back from charter schools.

He has to decide whether he wants to be the super of our public school system or if he wants to privatize the district which I and many others think is his true agenda. This death by a thousand cuts is hurting so many.

Now say I am wrong, say he thinks he can serve Chartrand and the charter school operators and the district’s schools, teachers and students how after all that he is done doesn’t he get how wrong that is. We will be spending millions extra next year and beyond on magnet conversions and transportation, money that we desperately need elsewhere.

And I don’t know about you but I want a junk yard dog who is going to fight for our district, not one that says, it’s okay that our partners actively undermine us and who is okay with the privatizing of our schools.

I will let you decide. Bellow is his response to Bradford hall's letter.

Mr. Hall,

Friday’s activities did not include charter recruitment activities. As you lightly referred to in your email and seem to know based on your experience with the Annual Education Symposium, engagement with students in the school district has been taking place with community members involved with the Symposium for over six years, well before my superintendency.  These activities are focused on building the civic capacity of our students and have had nothing to do with charter schools. In fact, the feedback from community members regarding the thoughtfulness and maturity of our students was outstanding. However, to repeat, the activities did not include direct or indirect recruitment of our students to charter schools.

As far as your other questions are concerned, I think my desire and strategies to compete with charter schools is well established.  You have attended countless board meetings, workshop presentations, panel discussions, and community meetings or can review TU articles and TV interviews where this has been articulated or shared. To name a few strategies to combat charter growth: we have expanded internal district choice to limit charter enrollment; empowered principals and district staff with first-time developed and reviewed student enrollment data to retain and recruit students; developed new schools, themes, and programs to compete with charters; developed a marketing plan and strategy; expanded the Choice Expo to all schools, not just magnets to encourage parent exposure to all schools; and created a new and separate district position to recruit parents from charter and private schools as part of the Choice Office. 

Perhaps we disagree regarding the acceptance that some charter schools are well established and welcomed by parents as too friendly to charters but I believe a counter perspective belies the reality of parent demand. You may not like KIPP or Tiger Academy; however, parents with children on the Northside do. If they did not, then they would not send their children to those schools nor would there be a waiting list.  I also know you would simply recommend that we break the law and deny most, if not all, charter applications.   This strategy is a waste of resources and also denies parents the opportunity to select schools they feel are best for their children. We have denied charter applications or caused applications to be withdrawn before denial votes by raising the bar of expectations for applications. Not all charter schools are weak or evil and not all charter schools are strong. Therefore, a balanced approach is necessary.

To address your other questions, the solution to improve low-performance is not only based on boundary changes and school redesigns. You are well aware of the unprecedented investment in retaining and recruiting stronger teachers for Northside schools; expanding technology investment; increasing PreK, art, music, elective, and dual enrollment offerings; and providing more school based positions to work with students who are below grade level in reading through interventionists and coaches. All of this including principal changes to strengthen instructional leadership and a research based district office model (DTO) to directly support schools and build the capacity of leaders and teachers.

I have been repeating since 2012-13 that our district and the state were experiencing a significant rise in D and F schools due to previously changed standards and more importantly, cut scores that define proficiency. From 2011 to 2014, the number of D and F schools in the state increased by 260% from 156 to 562.  the district increased by 119% from 21 to 46. From 2012 to 2014, the number of D and F schools in the state increased by 125% from 249 to 562.  The district increased by 109% from 22 to 46. 

I have explained a number of times that schools are facing or will face state sanctions. I repeated that the community has not dealt with this reality due to hold harmless grades. I stated this to explain principal changes, school redesign, and boundary changes over the past two years. And, to be clear, “Priority Schools” are not newly defined low performing schools facing possible state sanction. Their performance prior to 2013-14 led to their designation. The strategies stated above have and will allow schools to avoid state sanctions. However, we cannot sustain the attempt to directly support a number of schools often in the same feeder pattern that face the same challenges of low performance, low enrollment, low utilization, and low or below residency growth rates.

Programs that have been strengthened or added on the Northside since my arrival to address charter enrollment growth and improve performance include:

·         Aviation Programs at Ribault Senior and Middle School
·         Cybersecurity Early College Program at Jackson
·         Strengthening the Visual and Performing Arts Program at Raines
·         Pitsco Labs at Highlands, Northwestern, Ribault, YMLA/YWLA, and Gilbert
·         Strengthening the Montessori Program at John Ford
·         Pre-Early College at  Ribault and Gilbert
·         QEA programs (unprecedented incentives for principals and teachers, Jacksonville Teacher Residency, Summer Principal Academy)
·         Expansion of City Year

We do need to expand these types of programs and marketing but that cannot happen without scaling back on the overfunding and district support of multiple schools facing the same challenges. We should overfund some schools but we cannot continue to do so across multiple schools facing the same challenges. This has been done for years and does not work.

Please review the most recent board approved QEA plan, Literacy plan, and the near 10 other plans that outline the strategies to address and improve performance, including African-American performance. No, we do not have a specific, written plan outlining separate strategies and interventions for African-American students or males. However, before our district creates one, please share with me a large urban school district plan that has been created outside of Duval County where African-American performance (or male performance) is stronger in graduation rates or NAEP performance (i.e. a national assessment that is equal in standard and assessment quality and rigor).  In other words, creating a plan for the sake of creating a plan does little for impact. I would like to see a plan that was developed and has yielded results stronger than our district.


NV

How should we reward teachers?

Duval County is actively trying to push kids towards charter schools.

Ugh last year the district allowed charters to use genesis the district’s computer program to recruit kids and this year the district and its partner the Jacksonville Public Education Fund are  pushing the 8th annual urban education symposium, whose main topic is  "Charter Schools - A Viable School Choice Option".


Education activist Bradford Hall asked the super some hard questions in a letter.

Dr. Vitti, 

I received an invite to the 8th Annual Education Symposium that I had planned to attend until I learned of this year's theme-- "Charter Schools - A Viable School Choice Option." This group claims it discusses issues related to "Reclaiming the Black Male Youth." Are you in direct support of this group's cause to recruit black students to charter schools? 

Based on an article written by Denise Smith-Amos of the Florida Times-Union titled 100 young black men, youths vow to launch service projects, this group hosted a workshop for 120 black male students from North Jacksonville yesterday. "Participating schools included Raines, Ribault and Andrew Jackson high schools and Ribault, Highlands, Gilbert, and Northwestern middle schools and the Young Men’s Leadership Academy, KIPP and Valor Academy." Here is another interesting quote from the article: One Ribault High group planned to help girls set up their own clubs at the school, to cut down on fights and “drama,” the boys said.

It is no secret that the co-chairs of this group are both founders and board members of two charter schools, one located in North Jacksonville. In fact, it is in the heart of the Ribault community.

Why are students from Raines, Ribault, and Andrew Jackson high schools and Ribault , Highlands, Gilbert and Northwestern middle schools attending this event hosted by charter school operators?  

Why are only students from North Jacksonville the target? 

And if this has gone on in the past, why has it been allowed by your administration to go on considering several mailing pieces attacking neighborhood schools like Ribault? 

Are there any recruitment attempts taking place at this workshop where you give them total access to our neighborhood school students?

I am concerned about the focus of the district. You continue to say the community should embrace school choice and competition while at the same time our poor neighborhood schools in North Jacksonville have little to no competitive course offerings and no marketing resources to aggressively recruit boundary students. 

What has the district done to increase marketing resources in neighborhood schools so they can keep up with the charter and dedicated magnet schools you and the Board continue to approve? 

Do the 1300 children at Ribault deserve deep investments like the ones afforded to the Young Men's Leadership Academy and the Young Women's Leadership academy? Or the GRASP Academy? Or do those students have to sit and watch the death of neighborhood schools all around them? 

Again for the sake of consistency, where can I find a written plan for closing the reading achievement gap for black students? 

Where can I find the district's plan to improve the number of low-performing schools? 

Until I can see elsewhere, is it safe to assume the district's plan is consolidating and reconfiguring schools over fear of losing control because of low-performance? And if such, how long did you know this was your plan?

In an article written by Smith-Amos titled Vitti's proposed changes could cost Duval's school district millions, your comments support the above-referenced assumption. 

When did you and your staff discover you had a significant number of schools facing sanctions or potential sanctions from the state? When did you inform the Board? 

For the sake of transparency as I know you have stated you are committed to on several occasions, please "reply all" to this message. 

I look forward to seeing the district's plans in writing. 

Best,

Bradford Hall

At this point can there really be any doubt that the super’s overall plan is to privatize our district? On one hand the district complains about charter schools which as a group underperform when compared with the city’s public schools but on the other hand they partner with charter school operators to push our kids to them.

What the #$@%!

The district votes to ditch Ed White's disabled children

Many of the superintendent's proposed changes to bring students back to various neighborhood schools are actually going to drive students away.

Say you aren't interested in the arts but live in Fort Caroline's neighborhood, well now you have to find a new school just like the 500 non autistic kids at Oak Hill. More of a work with your hands type of kid? Then Wolfson just kicked you to the curb.

Nowhere is this more evident than at Ed White high school which they are transforming into a dedicated military magnet.

Some magnets aren't dedicated, that's to say you can still go to the school and not be in the magnet but not so at the new Ed White. If you want to attend there you have to be in the magnet. I personally think they are gong to have a hard time finding 1,500 kids who want to be in the program. Now I may be wrong about that, but what I am not wrong about is what is going to happen to the 120 intellectually disabled kids that currently go there. Nope they are being told they are no longer welcome and its even worse because the district has made no plans to send new disabled studnets elsewhere.

The intellectually disabled program, that has several business enterprises that give their kids real life skills is going to be phased out. You know because military magnets and disabled children don't mix.

The district is robbing the city's most vulnerable children of a valuable program.

Who speaks for them?

Finally before you shrug your shoulders and say, hey it's just a few kids, I hope it's not your child who is displaced the next time the super comes up with a hair braned scheme.


The impending teacher shortage

Duval County is the gimmick district

When talking about a school choice initiative making its way through the legislature last week the superintendent said, Philosophically, I am supportive of it because I think parents should not be stuck in their neighborhood school.

Stuck.

Think about the word stuck for a moment.

I don’t know about you but when I hear somebody is stuck in something it has a negative connotation and reading the supers words shows me that he and this administration don’t get it.

Even now despite dwindling enrollment in some schools most people are happy or content with their neighborhood schools.  They don’t feel stuck there and I think that is lost on the super and some other people. In many of the superintendent’s proposals you are trying to get back families that left at the expense of families that have stayed.

Furthermore I wonder if the parents at the acclaim academy or any of the other failed charter schools wish they would have stuck with their neighborhood schools.

I completely understand that some students have left for magnets, but isn’t that the concept behind magnets. To put special programs in schools that children have to leave their neighborhood schools to attend. It seems that neighborhood schools are now being punished because of programs the district created are siphoning away students. In short the district’s solution for neighborhood kids leaving for magnets is more magnets.

I also understand that some kids have left for charter schools, a problem this board has exacerbated time and time again as you keep approving new ones, this despite that as a group doing worse than our public schools or there is no need for them as many have set up shop in neighborhoods that have very successful schools.

I want to specifically mention the KIPP School. The state projects its school grade to be a D this year, which means its grades have been F, B, D, B and D again. This is the school the district routinely points to as a model charter school. This is the school the district through a grant gave 1.5 million dollars. This is the school that requires parents to be involved, has a longer school day, longer school year and spends about a third more per child.

If this is the best the charter school industry has to offer in Jacksonville then we are in more trouble than even I thought.

I will give the KIPP School some credit in that it’s a non-profit and does try to educate our disadvantaged students unlike the Charter School USA schools which exist only to make a profit and the district has allowed to set up shop in neighborhoods that did not need them.

I would like to suggest that if the district finds itself in a hole because so many kids have left for charter schools that the district stop digging.

So to solve a problem either created or exacerbated by this administration, charters and magnets, it seems to me and many in the community that the supers plan is to throw ideas like paint against a wall and hope something sticks.

Let’s have a military magnet there, a k-2 here, let’s start an autism center or let’s make kids wear uniforms.

The district would rather try gimmicks rather than do things the right way. If we want to reach our potential which I believe is great, we must have disciplined schools, and a teaching staff that feels supported and is allowed to be creative and innovative. They must be allowed to teach a curriculum they believe in and support and they can’t be micromanaged. Then schools have to be joyous places where kids want to come and learn not dreary places where all they do is test prep.

Do you want to know why families leave? For the most part it’s because they don’t like the district, they don’t feel their children are safe, they don’t feel the curriculum is appropriate and they don’t believe in the districts kill and drill philosophy. They believe we have lost our way and are willing to try alternatives.  

You make their neighborhood schools safe places where kids enjoy themselves and where teachers are enthusiastic then the families that left will return in droves.

A gimmick at this school or at that school isn’t going to do the job and it is beyond me how the super and the board think they will.

The selfish, yet understandable behavior of some parents (rough draft)

At last nights school board meeting a woman spoke about Wolfson high school. She said she was a proud graduate who had moved away. After twenty years she and her family returned and she was excited to send her now middle school aged children there when they got old enough.

Unfortunately people started to tell her how bad and unsafe it was. She said hearing this news made her sad but then she started to do her homework and the school was much better than what people had made it out to be. There was an IB program, a magnet program and their test grades were better than at other schools you might think were better. She was really singing Wolfson's praises and then she said, please turn it into an advanced academic magnet school like Paxon and Stanton.

Um, what double take!!!

She wasn't the only one who spoke either. There as a grand mother and a couple more sets of parents whose kids were currently attending Landon, a middle school academic magnet and they were there to give their support to changing Wolfson into an advanced academic magnet so their kids wouldn't have to leave their neighborhood.

They were there advocating for their kids and I get it too because if I had a child in a similar situation I might have done the same thing.

Here is the thing who speaks for the neighborhood kids who aren't interested in going to an advanced academic magnet? Who speaks for those kids? These kids that will now have to go to Sandalwood or Terry Parker, that will have to leave their neighborhoods.

IB isn't for everybody, it wouldn't have been for me and it's not for most regular kids but, who speaks for them, who is looking out for their needs?

Wolfson may not have been perfect but like the first lady who spoke said, it had a lot to offer and not to just one set of kids, those academically gifted but all the kids zoned to go there..

It's time Duval started caring about all its kids and not just those at the top.

The irrefutably poor logic of Vitti and the School board

Magnet schools, specialty schools which are designed to drawn their enrollment from the entire city have long been controversial. I am not a fan of the academic magnet schools especially since every school now has some advanced academic program, in my opinion this makes them obsolete.

That being said I am a big fan of specialty schools like Douglas Anderson and Frank Peterson that aren't replicated elsewhere.

They have also been blamed by the district for declining enrollment at numerous schools (along with charters and McKay scholarships). Vitti has said time and time again that parents have chosen to send their kids elsewhere.

So what does the district do to stem the tide? Well yesterday they approved three more dedicated magnet schools including two high schools (Ed White, Wolfson and Fort Caroline).

Um if the problem is Magnet Schools drawing students away, then why would we create three more? Am I missing something here?

The districts solution to the problem is to make the problem worse.

Welcome to Duval County.

To read more, click the link, http://www.news4jax.com/news/duval-county-school-board-stops-boundary-changes-to-some-schools