The Times Union's ham handed support of the district is offensive

By Bradford Hall

The Florida Times-Union is considered by many a very bias and lopsided press. After reading its latest editorial titled 'Duval school system's progress clear,' I furthermore believe the editorial staff is enthralled in a love affair with someone who is a fan of Superintendent Nikolai Vitti. As an education advocate, I commend the district for its successes but advocacy is bringing awareness to not only the things that make us look good but also championing best practices so we can eradicate those things not enabling total success.

The Times-Union unfairly bases this success on the graduation rate alone. Yes, more students are getting diplomas put into their hands. Great! However, one must stop to ask this most important question: What is the value of a Duval County Public Schools education?

In 2012-2013, the first year Vitti arrived, we had 38 D and F schools. One might consider it only fair to mention his transition into the superintendency as the reason for a double digit increase in D and F schools from the prior year. The problem is the increase in D and F schools have not stopped. In 2013-2014, there were 54 D and F schools, another double digit increase. And while only a single digit increase occurred for this latest school year with new FSA data, there is still an increasingly sad 59 D and F schools. While 23 D and F schools are no stranger to the North, the Northwest, and the East parts of Jacksonville, we have now seen alarming increases of D and F schools in other areas of town in the past two years. Arlington has 9 D and F schools. Southside and Mandarin areas have 5 D and F schools. The west side has a whopping 22 D and F schools. How far does failure spread before the Times-Union gets a clue and stops the madness misleading the public?

Pursuing this further, while we hear about the old "apples to oranges comparison" as an excuse for why our students struggle to read on grade level, I'll sure take the 2004-2005 school year days where we had 16 D and F schools. And yes that's still too many but better than 59. This community deserves to see a solid plan for how Dr. Vitti and his team of chiefs and assistant superintendents plan to improve the academic success of our students. This is the large elephant in the room that no one has addressed.

How offensive I find it that the Times-Union suggests that black students have an improved education because of an increase in the graduation rate.

Again, what's the quality of a DCPS education? Is it determined by the fact that only 35% of black students are reading on grade level, 18 percentage points lower than the district's 53% reading proficiency? We have great teachers and administrators in our schools who work tirelessly to educate every child. They do so under the micromanagement of the district's leadership. Principals have little control over their budgets. Some principals even complain about having to hire who the district tells them they can hire while being held accountable for the district's decisions.

Past School Board members have never been afraid to hold accountable district level administrators. What is going on with this current Board and their lack of questioning the Superintendent? We have too many schools missing the mark to believe everything is peaches and cream. Questioning the Superintendent, when appropriate, is a part of being an effective Board member. Supporting the Superintendent, when appropriate, is also a part of being an effective Board member.

I know it is re-election time but our children cannot afford to come second to political agendas. Remember this... Graduation rates cannot be the sole determinant for progress. Especially with... The number of D and F schools Arlington, 9 North/Northwest/East, 23 West, 22 South/Mandarin, 5


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