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Friday, February 25, 2011

Businesses give DCSB vote of no confidence.

I try and repost as little as possible from the Times Union prefering to write about the topics. I am sure I will do that about below as soon as I get a chance. Reading this however was like how I imagine a high school kid must feel after asking a girl to the prom 29 times only to have her say no but then asking one more time and hearing her say yes; a combination of elation, relief and vindication. After years of writing about our school board and our education system, I finally feel like somebody heard me. I also feel like somebody finally cares which is what I hoped would happen. -cpg

From the Florida Times Union

by Topher Sanders

Key members of Jacksonville’s business community jumped into the heated discussion about plans for improving Jacksonville’s four most struggling public schools.

The Duval County School Board should immediately form an independent body “empowered to hire and fire principals, teachers and school personnel,” the business leaders wrote in an opinion letter appearing today in The Times-Union.

Written by Chris Corr of AECOM, Steve Halverson of The Haskell Co., John Rood of Vestcor Cos., Peter Rummell of Rummell Co. and Michael Ward of CSX Corp., the letter said students in Duval’s intervene schools are “doomed” unless the community responds now.

The independent body would determine the intervention response for the schools, the leaders wrote.

The letter piggybacks on an opinion piece from T. Willard Fair, chairman of the state Board of Education, which criticized School Board member Betty Burney for a letter she wrote the previous week comparing FCAT scores and college readiness data.

The schools in question are Andrew Jackson, Raines and Ribault high schools and North Shore K-8.

State law requires the school system to pick between turning the schools into charter schools, hiring an outside management organization to run the schools or closing them. The School Board is pitching a governance structure that would allow it to maintain control while it received input from a community-based organization on key functions of the schools.

The business leaders said that plan isn’t strong enough.

“It’s time for bigger thinking, more radical thinking and more radical change,” Halverson said.

He said he knows their proposal isn’t exactly what state law requires either, but it’s more aggressive than the district’s plan. And the business community must play a bigger role.

“We also think it’s important for the business leadership to step up,” he said. “There needs to be greater commitment of resources, both people and financial to help.”

The schools need more than the resources and funding provided by the state to improve, he said.

School Board Chairman W.C. Gentry said he respected the letter’s authors, but wishes they would have talked with the School Board and Superintendent Ed Pratt-Dannals to better understand the impact of the state’s requirements and the district’s plans.

“I hope this means they will be energetic partners with us in solving the problems that they have discussed in their article,” he said.

Burney said the point she intended with her opinion piece is that every student in the intervene schools is not failing.

“One thing I hope is that they decide to visit the schools and assist them, since they are so interested now,” Burney said.

Fair had called into question Burney’s use of college readiness data supplied by the state. Burney’s piece focused on students eligible for college readiness scores while Fair’s did the same but looked at the entire graduating group.

For example, there were 339 ninth graders in the 2006-’07 year at Andrew Jackson. Four years later, only 41 of those students were eligible for college readiness scores. Of those, 31 were found to be college ready in reading.

Rummell said the city’s future is dependent on the district’s improvement.

“It’s not just an education problem, it’s a Jacksonville-wide economic development problem because a good school system is fundamental to a strong economic development climate,” he said.

The first thing companies evaluate if they are considering operating in a new community is its school system, Rummell said.

Rummell and Halverson said the letter was not a vote of “no confidence” in the School Board regarding the four schools, but Rood said for him that’s exactly what the letter means.

“How could anyone have any confidence; they’re not doing anything different,” Rood said. “You’ve got all these kids going through year after year, and they’re not learning. These are kids’ lives. How are they going to catch up and what kind of a future do they have?”

The state Board of Education will make the final decision on the district’s plan., (904) 359-4169



  1. Chris,
    I can appreciate that you feel like you were the lone voice of dissent for a while, but I would have thought you would attack this latest attempt by local business leaders to insert themselves into the education conversation as the self-serving nonsense that it is. Why do all of these bigwigs constantly need to reinvent the wheel? Why do they not find and groom real candidates for the school board that reflect their values? There is already a process in place. These guys admit they don't really have a plan for the education of the kids, but they have a plan that increases their power. Imagine that. I need a little less of the reorganizing of administration and a little more boots on the ground. How about "we're authorizing our workers with experience in high needs areas to tutor at these schools while on the clock" or "we're announcing new competitive internships for students of these schools with possibilities for scholarships or tuition reimbursements." Spare me the newly realized chagrin that some schools in Jacksonville are failing. We don't need to add more voices to the chorus of blame and wistful desire for "real change." Run for the school board, become a teacher or adminstrator, volunteer at a school, or facilitate someone else doing any or all of those things. Otherwise all of this is about as useful as me saying that my children are graduating from schools this year, but these business leaders are not doing anything to help them with jobs. Maybe I will start a coalition of parents concerned that businesses are not doing enough to hire recent graduates. These business leaders need to start thinking outside of the box.

  2. Only, no not by a long shot but the first step towards fixing the problem is recognizing there is a problem. We have done so many kids a disservice throughout the years maybe we are now starting to get what the real problem has been.

    I can't disagree with one thing you wrote and you are right replacing one board that doesn't know what it is doing with another is folly. However it is worse to keep doing what we are.

    Hey I am looking for contributors, I would love that the blog be a communtiy blog where many who are concerned with public education could write about their thoughts and idea.

  3. In addition to things mentioned in the above comments, I suggest these schools be turned into Charter Schools, let those Execs take a leave of absense or whatever will get them into the CLASSROOM with an experienced teacher, so they can participate in the day to day teaching and learning process. Let these leaders SHOW and EXPLAIN what will be expected of the students in the real world, while acting as living examples of why one needs to have a broad education. Let them also be open to learning from the students.

    IF, the above participatory spirit of Jacksonville's business leaders is added to the classroom, then a fuller understanding of local education, with its many challenges, opens the door for city-wide enlightened understanding of where education is in Jacksonville and where it needs to be.

    Whatever faults exist in students, teachers, administrators, the school board, and the business community's lack of involvement, although real, it's doubtful any individual goes into education with the express goal of making it as bad as possible. Therefore, all these groups must find how best to work together. Yes, changes would take place; changes on the fly, probably. That's what I've found happens in the workplace and has its place in education, especially under the circumstances that currently exist at these schools.

    This city needs better education, better entry into the job field, better career options in a down economy, better pay, vibrant growth, and a city-wide can-do positive feeling about itself through personal independence. Now, how do we convince everyone to stop complaining, so we can move forward toward the light of true enlightenment?