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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Chris Guerrieri gets it wrong about Duval's intervene schools

Chris Guerrieri got it really, really… wrong, in his article about the intervening schools that is in this weeks Folio and I would know, you see I am Chris Guerrieri.

Now I believe everything I wrote was factual. There is no realistic plan for the ninety-five percent of the children that go to the intervene high schools that aren’t in the advanced academic programs. The district has had more than enough time to seriously address the problem and like me doing dishes they kept putting it off hoping the problem would correct itself and Mrs. Burney and Mrs. Wright do seem to be acting more to protect their turf rather than do what’s best for the schools. No, the first part I got wrong was standing up for the newly created Education Management Organization (EMO) Duval Partners but can you blame me?

I believed Duval Partners was the best of all the bad options the state gave us. I allowed myself a glimmer of optimism because they were a non profit and all monies would be spent on the schools and since they were from the community this would give them a chance to make up for their other deficiencies, you know like having never run schools before. Plus they were hand picked by the district, though looking back this should have been a bigger red flag for me. Sadly this shadow agency’s first public move was to perpetrate a bait and switch on the people of Jacksonville.

Instead of talking with the community and the school’s administration and staff to find out how they could address the problems, instead of addressing the problems at all they went totally off the menu and are looking to subcontract another EMO, a for profit one to run the schools. Maybe this is the logical approach as the group has no experience running schools but I can’t help but think when they made this announcement a lot of jaws hit the floor at the school board building.

I don’t want to address Duval Partners so much as Anne did in her editorial but since they basically disregarded the duties they were created to do it makes me wonder about a different problem. Just what the heck is going on at 1701 Prudential Drive that they couldn’t even get this right? This is without a doubt another black mark for the school board and district and another indicator that they really don’t have an idea what’s going on if the school is located north of Beaver Street and West of Casset.

Did anybody talk to the members of Duval Partners to get a feel for what they thought or did the district just assume they would follow lock step with what the district wanted?

Was anybody at the district worried when members began dropping out including the body’s first chair?

Was nobody at the district worried that they held all their business like a secret society behind closed doors?

Did the Duval Partners mention they might look to another EMO and was that a question the district asked? How was the district able to be so blindsided by this news?

Why did the district sign the memorandum of understanding after they found out about Duval Partners plans? Did it give anybody down there any pause?

Does anybody else have the sinking feeling that the school district is just making stuff up as they go along and if it has gotten this so wrong, hand picking people, what else is amiss?

I feel like I am watching a train wreck that is moving in slow motion, a train wreck that started years ago but is now coming to a head.

It’s like the plot of a bad novel about education; district handpicks a group of locals to run schools, group says okay and then turns on the district hiring a group of foreigners to run the schools instead, school district left holding the bag.

The second part I got wrong was to hold out hope that the schools would improve to where they need to be. The truth is I don’t think there is any chance, on one hand we have a hapless school board that can’t even hand pick people right and on the other we have a shadow organization which is only interested in passing the buck, then we have a community that is apathetic at best, that’s a foot I guess. Caught in the middle are a few thousand kids who were already playing long odds, which just got a lot longer.

Families take your kids and send them elsewhere and I am not talking about other schools’ in the district either. Why not give Nassau, Baker or Clay a chance, I mean if you want your kids to have a chance that is.

I got this wrong but I learned a lesson and that’s as long as we have this same group running our district, give up hope all ye who enter.

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