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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Another big gamble by superintendent Vitti. Open school enrollment is a lift too far. (rough draft)

He says all the time that he is here for the long haul. That he wants to be here while his young children go through school. That’s good and all but that’s now typically how things work out. Superintendents at large districts characteristically don’t last long, either leaving for greener pastures in education businesses or working for state and federal agencies or forced out having stayed past their welcome. I say this because Vitti’s meteoric career trajectory doesn’t say stay for the long haul. It says Jacksonville is a stepping-stone. I also say this because if his latest proposal fails his bus ticket out of town will be ready to go.  Then I wonder who would be here to clean up Vitti’s biggest gamble of all, if open enrollment, fails.

He plans to open enrollment to all our schools regardless of where people live. In theory kids from Baldwin could go to Fletcher or anywhere in between. Though don’t get to excited about enrolling your kid in the A elementary school down the street from where you work or those renowned magnet schools because neighborhood kids will still have top priority and there hasn’t been an announcement how enrollment with them will work. Options though will go up.

In the Times Union article he said, Vitti said he wants to win back students and parents to Duval’s traditional public schools and to stem the flow of students and funding to area charter schools and private schools.

First kids have already returned from Charter schools over the last couple years as more and more people have realized they put out an inferior product. But where has the school boards resistance to charter schools been? Since he has been here about a dozen have been approved and furthermore aren’t their other way to improve our schools than blowing up the system we have now?

What about making them safer? Vitti’s measures thus far, extra security, ISSP teachers and deans have been implemented half-heartedly.

What about fighting back against standardized tests one of the reasons many parents say they send their kids to private schools. Vitti’s rabbi Gary Chartrand is the chair of the state board of education, why can’t Vitti convince him that the high stakes testing culture created in Florida schools have sucked the joy out of education for untold teachers and students alike.

What about creating more programs that kids are interested in and I am not just talking about the obsession with STEM. I bet we could have two more Douglass Anderson type schools if not more.

What about making sure each class had a professional teacher rather than a Teach for America hobbyist to teach them. His reliance on then kneecaps hundreds of classrooms throughout the district and creates an ever-revolving door of teachers that will need to be replaced.

What about making classes smaller and bringing in more social workers and counselors because often why kids act up or do poorly in school has nothing to do with school at our schools that have seen the most amount of kids go to charter schools or take vouchers.

What about just getting the facts out there. Public schools without a doubt are the best things going on. They out perform charter schools as a group and they are doing well as private schools that accept vouchers despite them being able to pick who they take and keep. Furthermore the republican legislature isn’t trying to open up public school sports, clubs and extra curricular events to private school, home school and charter school kids for no reason.

There are numerous ways we can improve our schools without sounding the death knell for dozens of neighborhood schools mostly on the west and north sides of town. These are the schools and the neighborhoods that have already experienced the brunt of Florida’s failed education policies.

There is also applicable and recent evidence that says this idea will fail. Despite opportunity scholarships that allowed the students at lower rated schools to attend higher rated ones schools like Jackson, Ribault and Raines haven’t experienced sustained turnarounds just smaller enrollments.

Then a few years back Ed White was a C school of some notoriety. It had a well renowned physics club, a model UN team that was one of the best in the state. A Drama program that put on several performances a year and an art department that was routinely represented at shows. They also had a veteran staff that knew what it was doing and dedicated to the school’s children. Immediately after the opportunity scholarship students arrived the school grade crashed and since then it has been fluctuating between an F and a C.

This was predictable too. Statistics show that kids on opportunity scholarships did not improve when they went to their new school and the new schools often suffered but despite that the state insisted it was a good idea.

So is letting kids move around for their benefit or is it to induce parents that had already given up on public education to return? 

When I started to write this I was begrudgedly for the proposal.

I thought about how it would lay waste to some neighborhood schools and make others that are already underutilized become even more fallow. I thought it was a bit of a red herring for most as most parents who would want to leave their schools won’t be able to provide transportation and if we did provide transportation I couldn’t see it not being cost prohibitive.

I thought what would stop schools from recruiting athletes or the brightest or most talented students creating even more have and have not schools. With Magnets we already have a two-tiered system in the county and this I imagine would even exacerbate this problem. I thought about all those things and I was still sort of for it.

Though now after a few hours of reflection and the realization that there are other ways to encourage charter school kids and voucher kids to return I have come to the conclusion it is a lift to far and I can’t help but wonder who will clean up the mess and what would be left if it fails.

At the last union meeting the consensus was the super was going to fast and doing too much and at best his results thus far have been mixed. This is too much too soon and there are other things we can do without sacrificing neighborhoods and schools to get charter school and private school students to return.

1 comment:

  1. Open enrollment is not a good idea. We have taken blows to our neighborhoods long enough.