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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

School Board members Betty Burney and Paula Wright play politics with our intervening schools.

I attended a meeting put on by school board members Betty Burney and Paula Wright to discuss the intervene schools, schools in danger of being closed or taken over and I have to say from the moment I walked I the door I was disappointed. They started by showing statistics comparing our three intervene high schools, Raines, Ribault and Jackson and compared them with other intervene high schools throughout the state and they did quite well in that comparison. Sadly that just meant those schools were doing the best of the worse.

They then alternated bashing the state and the Education Management Organization that they themselves practically handpicked, Duval Partners. They did so to get the crowd fired up and on their side but not because those two deserved it.

Whoa Chris wait a minute, don’t you often talk about how the state is misguided and how the Duval Partners are unqualified? Yes, yes I do but that has nothing to do with where those schools find themselves. Those schools are in trouble because much of their communities have abandoned them and because the policies of the school district have handicapped them.

Kids don’t suddenly arrive at those schools (and Lee, Ed White, Forrest and First Coast too) and suddenly forget the skills they need, on the contrary they never learned them. The kids at those schools are not dumb they just know what they know and sadly the school system hasn’t taught them much ,only how to pass a test.

I asked a question, if they want us to give them one more year I needed to know what their plan was, that after a decade of mismanagement why should I trust them. Mrs. Burney went on to talk about how each of the schools had advanced academic programs and they would be pairing up with middle schools to make continuity of program. That’s a fabulous idea; the problem is at those schools the kids in the advanced academic programs only represent about five percent of the student bodies. I wanted to know what is their plan was for the other ninety-five percent of the students? If they had one they did not mention it.

The two school board members came off as if they were more upset about not being consulted and their ideas being rejected rather than where the schools found themselves. Then worse they used disingenuous information to bolster their points. They told one parent that A schools get more money, while ignoring the title one funds and the school improvement grants that bring in hundreds of thousands of extra dollars to the schools in question. They made a list about why the Duval Partners would be ineffective and about how it would cost more, a list that seemed like it was written by a fairly bright eleventh grader brainstorming. Duval Partners is a non-profit unlike most EMOs and any money given to them (and I am sue it wouldn’t be much) would be put back into the running of the schools. They mentioned, whom would you talk to if you had a problem because it wouldn’t be the school board. Well ladies and gentlemen have you ever tried to contact the school board? Its not like they are returning calls or e-mails in bulk now. Then they blamed the FCAT 2.0 and believe me this test is about as flawed as it gets. The problem is the increases the schools made were negligible which doesn’t inspire much faith that is they would have taken the regular FCAT that the schools would have done much better.

These schools will never improve, never, as long as the county has a policy of promoting kids without the skills they need but regardless I am not sure if much of the community cares. 3000 kids parents have chosen to send their kids elsewhere and at the meeting last night we had 150 adults show up representing another 3000 kids families. The community has lost faith in those schools and until the community regains that faith they won’t improve. It is that simple.

The sad thing is, there are a lot of good things going on at those schools and not just with the advanced academic programs. Regular kids are learning and teachers are working hard and that is the base either the district or Duval Partners should be starting with to get the community to return. They should be working with their partners in the media to get the word out and get the kids who live in the community but go to school elsewhere to come back home. Paula Wright kept repeating. Let your voice be your power, well how about come home families these schools will now be safe and rigorous.

Betty Burney has been on the school board for almost seven years. Paula Wright has been in the system for a lot longer. I find this last minute appeal to save the schools from the evil Duval Partners, you know people that live in the neighborhood and were concerned enough to give up their time and the state who only gave them about a half decades notice disingenuous at best and like a child having a temper tantrum when they don’t get their way at worse.

Nobody wants to se these schools fail but putting an advanced academic program in them isn’t going to save them either. Nobody should be excited about the EMO but it’s where we find ourselves and with the next year rapidly approaching it is whom we should throw our support behind. But nobody should have confidence in Mrs. Burney and Mrs. Wright is last night is an example of their leadership, they had their chance and now it’s time to give somebody else one.

In a bit of good news it’s hard to imagine Duval partners doing any worse.

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