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Sunday, May 22, 2011

How Newsweek doomed education in Jacksonville

Dear Newsweek

You recently selected a pair of Jacksonville’s schools as two of the best in the nation. You rated the Stanton college preparatory school as the nations fifth best and the Paxon School for advanced studies at number 14. Only Dallas Texas with two schools among the top five in the whole of the United States seemed more impressive.

I say seemed because in actuality your list has doomed many students in the same school system as those two to mediocrity and served to set Jacksonville back. Stanton and Paxon despite their impressive accomplishments, fantastic children and impressive staffs are hurting many of Jacksonville’s children that go to other schools. You see In Jacksonville where a child goes greatly determines their academic experience and that should not be acceptable in public education.

When you were compiling your statistics did you take into account that Paxon and Stanton recruit the best of the cities public school kids to go there? Did you take into account that those schools have a minimum grade point average and if a child doesn’t maintain it they are required to leave? Did you know that if a child is a discipline problem they are likewise required to find another school? Do you have any understanding what you have done to the rest of the city by promoting them?

The powers-that-be have become so enamored with the publicity that those two schools generate that they treat the other high schools in the counties like red headed step cousins with dirty hands. They can’t understand why the successes there can’t be duplicated elsewhere in the district. They don’t understand why Raines, Ribault, Jackson, and Forest high schools are considered drop out factories. Or why 11 of the cities 17 high schools are failing or in a turn around (struggling) status. The fact that many of their best students are siphoned away and those other schools aren’t allowed to play by the same rules as Stanton and Paxon might explain some of that.

Not only do those schools create a brain drain from the neighborhood schools but they also siphon away many of the most involved parents and families as well. Furthermore the two schools get resources that the neighborhood schools don’t receive which in effect means the kids that arguably need the resources the least are getting more than those that need them the most.

Furthermore if a cities crime rate and economy can be traced back to education then those two high schools despite their annual high rankings on your lists are partly responsible for exacerbating those problems in Jacksonville. Our city has an international airport, a world-class port and intersects two major highways. We have plenty of room for expansion and much of the infrastructure already in place to do so. Our climate is moderate, we’re located on the ocean, we have an NFL team and are close to entertainment hubs. Then we are a pro business city in a pro business state without a state income tax. Jacksonville should be fighting businesses off but we’re not and one of the reasons they site is our failing school system and this is with two of the top eight schools, according to your list, in the nation.

Then despite recent improvements after the hiring of hundreds of additional police officers our crime rate remains high. Part of the reason must be because we aren’t producing children ready for the work force or college. Instead all they are prepared for is the streets and public assistance. Stanton and Paxon are the equivalent of Nero playing the fiddle while Rome burned down around him. Sure the music is good but we have slightly more pressing problems.

Problems that you Newsweek make worse when you put Jacksonville’s public schools that don’t play by the same rules all the other public schools in the city are forced to play by on your list.

Newsweek magazine if your annual list is not just some stunt to draw in readers but it’s made because you really care about schools and education then for the sake of all of Jacksonville’s children and for the sake of our city itself please leave us off future lists.

Chris Guerrieri


  1. If Newsweek is really a top notch publication then they should do a follow up story and examine this critique in depth. Someone who knows how should send it to them and demand a follow up.

  2. Newsweek Mag is the WORST. It is so worthless it recently was sold for $1. That's right, ONE dollar. And they had to beg someone to come up with that.