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Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Times Union should investigate the Duval County Public school district

Mr. Denton

After reading your editorial about upcoming changes to the Times Union, I can honestly say it is good news. The citizens of Jacksonville have long needed a voice to speak for them and to educate them about what is happening behind the scenes even if it is not always pretty.

With that being said I don’t understand why the Times Union never followed up on current school board member Connie Halls various for profit and non-profit enterprises that received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the School Board. I personally showed your education writers and education editor a school board agenda, which said she her Achieve Instill and Inspire foundation was paid 90 thousand dollars, and the tax returns, which said it received only 80 thousand.

She then created a for profit company to provide the same services but tripled her fees. The Folio did an article that said the schools that received her services could not respond as to whether they were carried out or not. The Sun Sentinel recently did an article about how companies were charging their school district for tutoring services but not providing them. I am not saying that happened here but when I spoke to a few teachers at the schools in question they didn’t know that either her non or for profit company was even there.

Furthermore why does somebody just pull the plug on a nearly half million-dollar contract as Mrs. Hall did this past fall when I first brought it up and if these services were so important and vital how come they were never replaced? More unanswered questions that never received a follow up.

Also I don’t understand why the paper insists on giving school board members a pass when they same things that are either lies or are manifestly wrong. These are our representatives and they should be held to a higher standard.

A couple weeks back Paula Wright said she has lost money being on the school board. Well according to her financial disclosures forms being on the school board has been very lucrative for her.

Then more recently Ashley Smith-Juarez said there was no evidence that smaller classes make a difference. First this makes her a hypocrite because during her whole academic career she benefited from smaller classes but there is LOTS of evidence that says smaller classes make a difference.

Then for years various members of the school board made a mockery of their financial reportings, I have seen them and Betty Burney and Ed Pratt Dannals are particularly egregious. These are things they are supposed to take seriously and when they don’t it violates the publics trust, yet it has never been mentioned in the Times Union.

Then there is the matter of our recent school grades, which were reported without analysis.  The recipe for school improvement includes, one part get rid of your lowest performing students, two parts have everyone take an AP class (you don't have to pass the test, you just have to take the course) and the ACT or SAT and a dash of have the state change the grading system so failure is nearly impossible. Presto Jackson goes from the lowest performing school in the state to a B and Ribault gets its A grade.

I know there are hard working teachers and students at Ribault but I also know there were hard working teachers and students at Ribault when they earned all the F and D grades too. I also believe it is likely their miraculous turn around is at least partly the result of a numbers game that the state of Florida and the district are all to willing to play.

We should celebrate our successes but we should be cautious about this news unless you think an A at Ribault and an A at Stanton mean the same thing. However if you read the Times Union coverage you wouldn’t know that.

I could go on and on

I realize we probably disagree on many things but at the end of the day I think what I want, a school system we can be proud of is what we both want. That’s not going to happen however until the people of Jacksonville are properly informed.

Chris Guerrieri
School Teacher

1 comment:

  1. Keep posting, Chris - You are keeping us ALL informed. And those that matter...ARE listening.