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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Is the superintendent a diabolical genius?

Is superintendent Ed Pratt-Dannals a diabolical genius?

Lets see, under his leadership suspensions and referrals are way down which makes us at least on paper appear like we are doing a better job with discipline. Though if you walk the halls of some of our schools or sit in their classrooms then you know this isn’t the case.

Our graduation rates have gone up every year he has been in charge. Now it’s true the method using to compute graduation was changed, the vast majority of our students who attend Florida Community College at Jacksonville have to take remedial classes and employers report having a hard time finding qualified applicants from the pool of reason graduates but as long as our percentage keeps heading up, who cares right.

Kids failing grades are way down too. Now a byproduct of this is kids are pushed along without the skills they need, which also includes a work ethic and discipline, to be successful but as long as kids are passing it all seems good.

The superintendent was pivotal in putting advanced academic programs in all the neighborhood schools as well. Now somebody a little more cynical might say he did so kids attending those programs, instead of just going to the magnet schools, would help with the schools FCAT grades. A critical thinker might also ask, well why do we have dedicated advanced academic magnet schools if the kids can get the same program anywhere but that doesn’t degrade the fact the superintendent can say, look at me and what I have done.

Then there is his latest stroke of genius. He gave the four original intervene schools to an educational management organization (EMO). Now he has cover in case those schools fail, which they will. He then doubled down on this when he said he plans to propose to the school board that the other three intervene schools be taken over too. If the board disagrees, next year when these schools don’t improve enough he can say in his folksy manner, look I tried to do what was best but the board said no. If the board does allow them to be taken over well that’s even more cover when they fail. Hey, he can say, we trusted this EMO to do what was right and they couldn’t get it done. Either way he wins. Diabolical!

The reason the schools will fail is because they superintendents only solution seems to be to hire more administrators and to switch more and more teachers around trying to find that elusive mix that he believes must be stopping those schools from succeeding. Sadly he avoids real solutions as if they were the plague but thus far it really hasn’t mattered. The school board lets him and the public apathetically sits back and lets it happen.

When he retires next year, blameless about the intervene schools failing because it will be the EMO who failed not him and he is able to list his amazing accomplishments, graduation rates way up, failure rates way down, suspensions and referrals reduced and advanced academic programs at all the schools we can send him into retirement with his gold watch and pat on the back. That should be a good day for everybody.

Then the district will be able to find a superintendent who is less concerned about appearances and more concerned with doing what is right. Unfortunately it will take him or her years to help our schools recover from the wreckage that has been left behind. You know, a demoralized and overworked staff, years of just teaching to the test and kids passed along without the skills they need to succeed. I wonder if people will think then, but hey our graduation rates were heading up right?

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