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Duval County’s strength, middle schools or who is the superintendent listening to?

The Super has reorganized the top administration of the district creating four area chiefs. The four people he chose to lead them are Addison Davis, Lawrence Dennis, Kelly Coker-Daniel and Iranetta Wright. Quite by accident it dawned on me that three of them made up last years middle school team.

Middle School Team 
Chief - Addison Davis 
Executive Director/Turnaround Specialist - Lawrence Dennis 
Executive Director - Kelly Coker-Daniel

I didn’t realize that middle school was the district’s strength. I bet Tommy Hazouri didn’t realize it either when last fall he talked about how discipline was so bad in our middle schools and that unless the district made them safe we will continue to lose kids and families to charter schools, private schools and the surrounding counties.

Was the best the district had to offer the middle school team and the principal of a school that just two years ago was ranked the worst in all of Florida? I have heard varying degrees of Oh My God what has the super done about three of them. Not Carolyn Davis, Mary Mikels or one of the dozens of other department chiefs, executive directors or turnaround specialists made the cut?

Think about this too. Addison Davis’s brother Mason Davis went from admissions rep to running the entire ESE department. The degrees of separation seem limited here. Now maybe I am just seeing patterns where none exist, I am on summer vacation after all and I have more free time than I know what to do with but the new top leadership comes form such a limited pool it’s hard for me to believe that there isn’t somebody in the super’s ear and I just wonder who that is and I wonder if that person is steering the district in the right direction.    


  1. Hazouri was right. The discipline is so bad at Mandarin middle that they lose 100 kids per year. And it's no coincidence that Fruit Cove and Switzerland Point are some of the best schools in the state.

    Every foreclosure was a move to SJC. If you have to move anyway, and you care about your children's education, why not move a mile or two south?

    The last climate survey revealed that the biggest complaint of teachers at MMS was student discipline and the biggest complaint of students was the principal, then student discipline. The biggest complaint of parents was the principal.

    Not one rule there is enforced. Even the so-called security guards just play around with the kids. The AP's expect students to discipline each other. What a joke! You have to fix the bullying problem before you can expect that.

  2. But what did Hazouri DO about it? Nothing! DTU also had many meetings to come up with a plan to specifically deal with middle school discipline problems. What became of it? Nothing!

    My principal's plan to improve discipline? Punish teachers who write referrals, disband Foundations, allow ALL students to attend dances/in-school games.

  3. Chris, the 10 million dollar question is who does Vitti listen to for positions in the county. Discipline sucks county wide. At some point kids must be removed from schools so others can learn. I know one parent who is removing two children from Fletcher middle. Thanks for the blog and everything you do

  4. K-8's (no middle schools) would help. There is certainly a lot of room at Mandarin for 100 more kids per year. Mandarin Oaks Elem. and Mandarin Middle could both be turned into K-8's.

  5. Very intuitive Chris. I too wonder who is "helping" the superintendent make these appointments. It takes a big man to say "I made a mistake" and make the necessary changes we see coming. I wonder how long it will take for him to see the consequences of these decisions.

  6. Why have a new Super if he's going to keep people who make the climate intolerable, like Wright, Dennis and Davis? Everybody wanted change, the SB, the teachers and the community. This is maintaining the status quo, not change.

  7. Would someone please explain to me why so many of the middle schools under Davis and Dennis had poor Math 2013 FCAT scores yet a month later, had amazing gains with EOC Algebra 1 scores?

    From now on, I'm calling May the miracle Math month because how any teacher could raise percentages by 30 or 40 points is superhuman.

    Unless, FCAT limited strict time/procedures mattered as EOC exams, at least at my school, were allowed to go on and on and on over days and weeks -- and that's just for Section 1.

    The data tells a unique story that begs questions to be asked, but will they?

  8. For those interested in the 2013 8th grade Math scores and the blatant discrepancy in a month’s time: April FCAT/ May EOC comparison, here are the numbers:

    2013 FCAT followed by 2013 EOC for all those passing 3 and above.

    Butler 16/78
    Highlands 24/71
    Ribault 25/58
    Jeff Davis 33/54
    Stilwell 28/64
    Lake Shore 37/66
    Mandarin 64/84
    Northwestern 41/no score available
    Jeb Stuart 30/83
    John Ford 0/89
    Southside 25/68

    Holy Cow, Batman! How did Butler, Highlands, Stilwell, Jeb Stuart, and Ford jump up so in points in one month?

    Does our new leader know about this profound discrepancy? Does it matter to him? Does our SB want an explanation?

    I know I do. I want the impossible explained. And for the record, I'm a real teacher who graduated in the top two percent of my university's class -- and I also use data, but it's not to deceive and promote, but to support my students to be the best they can be.

    Thanks, Chris, for giving opportunities to shine a light in the growing darkness of education hide-and-seek.

  9. Lawrence Dennis's wife, Kimberly took Sadie Tillis Elem. from a "c" to an "f" in a couple of years. Her reward...moved to an "A" school.

  10. Well, this trend apparently started under the Great Ed Pratt Dannals. Principal, Patricia Willis, of Gilbert Middle School became Deputy Superintendent. Her Vice Principal, Tony Bellamy succeeded her as Principal, and was promoted to Director of Turnaround Schools shortly after. I do wonder if it was as a result of FCAT SCORES. In those days after testing, the booklets and the answer sheets were taken to a room and some people sat down and cleaned up the answer sheets by removing stray marks with erasers. However, people at DCPS in Washington D.C., apparently, used to do the same. Maybe it was just CHARITY.
    If Addison Davis’s brother Mason Davis went from admissions rep to running the entire ESE department, that is no big thing. It is called NEPOTISM and possibly involve CRONYISM.
    If Lawrence Dennis' wife, Kimberly, took Sadie Tillis Elementary from a "C" to an "F" she deserved a promotion. Folks, remember the objective of THE SUPERINTENDENT & HIS CRONIES is to destroy the Public School System for the PLUTOCRATS.
    Jeb Stuart 30/83? Well, in STANDARDIZED ALGEBRA Tests, we teach the students how to CHOOSE THE CORRECT ANSWERS. And the Algebra 1 Teacher there is very competent. They do not have to be able to work the problems. Also, the EOC scoring is very, very, very, liberal. So no big surprise to me. Standardized Tests are the ememies of students but the friends of the Principals.