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Thursday, June 16, 2011

W.C. Gentry and the School Board hope for a miracle to save intervening schools

The worse kept secret in the city was revealed the other day. It happened when the news reported that the four intervening schools; those schools in danger of being taken over by an Education Management Organization (EMO) likely did not make enough improvement to avoid this. This raises lots of questions but chief among these should be why anybody at 1701 Prudential drive thought they would. What changes did they make and please don’t point to the SIG grant which channeled hundreds of thousands of dollars into those schools. Like it was in most schools that money was wasted.

The problems at Raines, Ribault and Jackson High School did not start last summer when their students arrived. No they started years ago when the district decided it was okay to promote children with out the skills they need to be successful. When children walked through the doors of those schools without a work ethic or the ability to read and do math at grade level there was no miracle cure waiting for them, though the school district might have thought there was one; just as they probably thought that every year for the last few ones there was one. What the leadership of the district lacks in workable ideas they certainly make up for in optimism.

What’s more puzzling than the districts complete lack of understanding about the problems those schools face is their response to this years scores. First they started to point fingers and blamed the FCAT 2.0. Now I will be the first to admit there are problems with the way they are scoring the test but at the same time it’s not like the three high schools had ever done well on the FCAT. Was this somehow going to be the magical year? W.C. Gentry said comparing the two tests (FCAT and FCAT 2.0) was like comparing apples to oranges and that might be true. However comparing what the district did to help those schools improve this year to what it did last year and the years before, would be like comparing apples picked at the same time from the same tree.

Gentry went on to say they have asked the districts attorney to discuss all administrative remedies available and said they may even consider a law suit. What would a lawsuit achieve it’s not like they have a reasonable plan to help those schools improve. Sir if you think splitting them into two smaller theme schools that share the same campus will work then maybe you do believe in miracles. And please contact me later I have some swamp land for sale cheap.

Furthermore if we are going to sue the state shouldn’t we sue over the paramount clause in the constitution. In case you didn’t know it the constitution says the number one job of the state is to provide a high quality education to our children. Well friends I don’t think cutting our education budgets to the bone, wresting local control away from our districts through unfounded mandates, forcing the FCAT on our children and telling districts how to hire, fire and evaluate their teachers is keeping with the spirit of that clause. What’s more New Jersey has a similar clause in their constitution, sued in the spring and within weeks, weeks!!!, the New Jersey Supreme Court ordered the governor to put 500 million back in education. Here we sit twiddling our thumbs hoping the public education hating crew in Tallahassee does the right thing. Well friends like those schools not improving because we hope they do, hoping Tallahassee does the right thing hasn’t been working either.

Pratt-Dannals our superintendent says he is making plans to appeal the schools take over. I say let them go and parents why aren’t you screaming for this, the district has had a decade of shots to improve those schools. I am terrible at darts but if throw them enough I do occasionally hit the bull’s-eye. Is this what you are waiting for, for the district after a decade to hit a bull’s-eye.

Finally could the Duval Partners do a worse job? If you are thinking we should look elsewhere because Duval Partners don’t have a plan, much time to do anything and or any experience, I hear you but I also reply what is the difference between them and the school board? To be honest it doesn’t matter who runs the schools the District or the EMO because quite frankly unless they radically change the way they do things the only hope the kids who show up next summer have, is a miracle.

Chris Guerrieri

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