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Thursday, June 9, 2011

11 questions the media should be asking the Duval County School Board

11 questions the media should be asking the Duval County School Board

1. How many students who walked across the stage at graduation didn’t really graduate? I am not talking about the students who had the grade point average and credits but hadn’t passed the F-CAT either. I am talking about students whose GPA’s were to low or didn’t have the credits but were still allowed to walk anyways. My guess is the number is in the hundreds. Should we stop calling it a graduation ceremony and start calling it a completion ceremony?

2. Is inclusion the right thing for both our special education and regular education children? Two years ago I wrote a memo saying I thought 20 or so children in my special education classes who would benefit from regular education opportunities. What was implied was I had about fifty who were right where they should be, next year they will all be in regular education classes where they will be passed along or flounder. Where it is true this is a state mandate, if it’s bad for our kids should we be doing it?

3. Why won’t the district institute a pay for play system? I know Pratt-Dannals says many of our poorer kids won’t be able to afford it but this seems like an excuse. They have all summer to start saving and doing fundraisers. Furthermore the pay for play program doesn’t have to cover the entire cost of their participation for those that can’t afford it but in these troubling financial times, doesn’t every little bit help?

4. Is the superintendent paid too much? He makes almost as much as the superintendents of Clay and St. Johns County combined and a hundred thousand dollars more than the mayor of Jacksonville. It is true his salary is comparable to superintendents of similar sized districts but at the same time 270 in Jacksonville is a lot different than 270 in Los Angeles.

5. Is the county going to sue the state over the paramount clause of the Florida Constitution? If you didn’t know the constitution says the paramount (top) job of the state is to provide a high quality education for its students. Unfunded mandates, wresting local control away from school districts and starving education of resources seem to violate this provision. Furthermore New Jersey, which has a similar clause just set some precedence. Several districts sued their governor and the New Jersey Supreme Court ordered him to put 500 million back into education.

6. Is Duval’s 5.5 million dollar reading initiative dead on arrival? In a nutshell it wants to increase children’s reading ability in the third grade so by the time they get to high school they have lost less of this ability. Most of the kids in my high school can still read at the third grade level, they didn’t lose those skills; instead they didn’t acquire the skills they needed after third grade. Many reading teachers think we should concentrate on what they didn’t learn.

7. Will the district start providing more skill and trade based curriculums? Despite our desire that every child go to college and become an engineer or doctor that is not realistic. May of our kids will never attend college either because of desire or aptitude but they can still be productive citizens. If we have many students who are not academically inclined aren’t we missing an opportunity to help them become productive citizens if we keep them on an academic track? Remember we don’t have the students the district wishes we had, we have the students we do and isn’t it time we started planning accordingly?

8. Is it time to get rid of the dedicated academic magnet schools? For a decade the dedicated academic magnet schools had programs you could not get at the neighborhood schools. Well now those programs are available at the neighborhood schools. If a student can get the same program at their home school isn’t that where they should be going and doesn’t this make the academic magnet school an expensive and redundant option?

9. How can we run a school system without an attendance or tardy policy (in high schools)? Many kids just drop by when they feel like it. They figure if they miss to much they can make up the class through learning recovery. Learning recovery, which used to be grade recovery, was once for kids who missed a lot of days for legitimate reasons or who tried hard but just didn’t get it. Now any kid is supposed to get learning recovery for any reasons, including skipping, lack of effort and behavior.

10. If three of our high schools are taken over by the state does Pratt-Dannals lose his job? The superintendent has been in charge for the past three and a half years and near the top for over a decade. People don’t realize but the lost of the three high schools means almost a fifth of all our non-magnet schools will be taken over furthermore how many of the other high schools are Ds. He has had years to address the problems at these schools and they have not improved under his watch. Does he keep his job if we lose the schools?

11. Finally the most important question, which nobody in the media seems to be asking, is; how do children arrive at high school without the skills they need to be successful? Is it they magically forget the things they learn or is it they are pushed on without the skills they need to succeed? Or is there a third option I am unaware of. Well I think we all know the answer to that one.

Chris Guerrieri
School Teacher


  1. In reference to your point about the academic magnet schools, are the same programs available at the neighborhood high schools?

    So far as I am aware, only one of the neighborhood high schools presently offers the International Baccalaureate degree that is offered by Stanton and Paxon. Eliminating the magnet high schools eliminates 90% of this program.

    Virtually all of the classes offered by Stanton and Paxon are honors courses. In some cases, the courses double as AP classes. While all of the neighborhood high schools now offer AP classes, are they offered in all of the subject areas that Stanton and Paxon now offer? Do they have honors courses for the remaining classes?

    There are a number of subjects offered that I doubt are offered at all of the neighborhood high schools. Do all of the neighborhood high schools offer calculus and philosophy, e.g.?

    Most of the media focus has been on the students who are not performing at or above grade level. I understand the concern, and it is obviously both well-meaning and well-placed. That does not mean, however, that we should ignore or reduce our commitment to those students who are excellent academic performers. The programs offered at Stanton and Paxon (and their feeder middle schools) serve an important role in preparing these students to succeed in college and graduate school.

    If the neighborhood schools can match the curriculum offered by Stanton and Paxon, then your point (other than as to the IB program) is well-taken. I doubt, however, that all of the neighborhood high schools are offering the same course work that is available at Stanton and Paxon. Unless there is a plan to replicate the programs at each of the neighborhood high schools (which would appear to me to cost more than offering it in concentrated form at just two schools), eliminating Stanton and Paxon will significantly disadvantage the students who are attending those schools now.

    Charles McCall

  2. All the neighborhood schools have some sort of advanced programs, i don't know how many are IB but I know ed white and ribault have them. My school offers calculus though not many sections but no philosophy.

    I think you have some points but at the end you even point to how kids there getting a better education. Is there room in a public school system for such a disparity in education?

    And to flip your point around, should we send the kids at the neighborhood schools back to those two magnet schools? Many of us think those programs were put in the neighborhood schools just for cheap FCAT points...

  3. Then you cannot say that they have the same programs. You can argue that we shouldn't have magnets, and that the gifted students should not receive the education that they are now being given, but you cannot say that the programs are the same. They clearly are not.

    Charles McCall

  4. I feel comfortable with my point...