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Monday, July 28, 2014

Does anybody else feel like Duval is making up as it goes along?

The open enrollment suggestion came and burned out quickly but not before throwing the entire community into upheaval. Then there is the constant turnover of senior staff with dubious or often zero reasons given, like the Simac-Davis switch that leaves ESE without a director, so soon after a major investigation into the department. Throw in the half hearted attempts at discipline and making sure kids have electives and the QEA initiatives which I don’t think are all supported by data but which also led to the greatest amount of surpluses in Duval history and I can’t help but feel we're making things up as we go along either that or we’re doing to much at one time.

Read these passages from a recent WJCT article about the QEA:

The QEA funds are housed at local nonprofit the Community Foundation for Northeast Florida. In general, education policy research nonprofit Jacksonville Public Education Fund serves as the grant-writing arm for the funds.  
But Tuesday, Couch and other board members questioned who would administer the incentive program funds to teachers and who would collect on them if teachers or principals failed to keep their end of the bargain.
“Who collects the funding if the teacher resigns early,” School Board Chairwoman Becki Couch asked. “Who is now the collection agent? Would it be the district or would it be the district or would it be the Community Foundation?”   
Vitti said the district would collect the money, but he said the details on how that would happen still needed to be worked out.
“We can work with (Community Foundation) to create a structure on how to do that,” he said.
Also of concern to board members was whether or not the incentive pay would count toward teachers’ retirement benefits.
Sonita Young, the district’s chief human resources officer, said the money would not count towards retirement. Originally, the district expected that it would, she said.
“We did desire that it would, but when we looked at the IRS language, we discovered that it could not be,” she said.
That came as a surprise to Duval Teachers United union President Terrie Brady. Brady said the union was under the impression that the extra money would count toward the employee benefits when it entered into an agreement with the district to implement the program. The memorandum of understanding was also never revised to reflect the change, Brady said.
School Board member Ashley Smith-Juarez questioned whether any fees would be attached to the administration of the funds.
“Has any type of administrative fee been discussed along with that? I know JPEF charges a 6 percent administrative fee for anything that is passed through,” she said.
When asked about the fee Smith-Juarez was referring to, JPEF President Trey Csar said the group does not charge any fees for writing grants tied to the QEA funds due to a previous agreement entered between JPEF and the Community Foundation.
Csar said that a contract between JPEF and the district specifying how money for the performance incentives program would be administered has not been finalized yet.
“Everything is preliminary at this point,” he said.
Couch said she was concerned with the lack of oversight the school board has had on the matter, so far.
“I think the board is certainly appreciative of the stepping out of the box that the superintendent has done with creating this initiative and working with partners,” she said.  “There’s a lot of oversight that the board needs clarity on with payment schedules and the money flowing into the district because that does fall under the purview of the school board.”

The point of Tuesday’s questions was to raise those concerns ahead of time.
“We’re asking them now before the school year starts,” she said.

Yeah just a few weeks before the school year starts and lets be honest we don’t have flawless openings here in Duval, even before all these changes, transfers and class changes are more the rule than the exception at a lot of schools even weeks into the new year.

Wanting to do a lot is admirable, we need a lot of stuff to be done but to be honest I wish we slowed down and made sure we did some stuff right before heading to the next big thing. 

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