Duval County is the gimmick district

When talking about a school choice initiative making its way through the legislature last week the superintendent said, Philosophically, I am supportive of it because I think parents should not be stuck in their neighborhood school.


Think about the word stuck for a moment.

I don’t know about you but when I hear somebody is stuck in something it has a negative connotation and reading the supers words shows me that he and this administration don’t get it.

Even now despite dwindling enrollment in some schools most people are happy or content with their neighborhood schools.  They don’t feel stuck there and I think that is lost on the super and some other people. In many of the superintendent’s proposals you are trying to get back families that left at the expense of families that have stayed.

Furthermore I wonder if the parents at the acclaim academy or any of the other failed charter schools wish they would have stuck with their neighborhood schools.

I completely understand that some students have left for magnets, but isn’t that the concept behind magnets. To put special programs in schools that children have to leave their neighborhood schools to attend. It seems that neighborhood schools are now being punished because of programs the district created are siphoning away students. In short the district’s solution for neighborhood kids leaving for magnets is more magnets.

I also understand that some kids have left for charter schools, a problem this board has exacerbated time and time again as you keep approving new ones, this despite that as a group doing worse than our public schools or there is no need for them as many have set up shop in neighborhoods that have very successful schools.

I want to specifically mention the KIPP School. The state projects its school grade to be a D this year, which means its grades have been F, B, D, B and D again. This is the school the district routinely points to as a model charter school. This is the school the district through a grant gave 1.5 million dollars. This is the school that requires parents to be involved, has a longer school day, longer school year and spends about a third more per child.

If this is the best the charter school industry has to offer in Jacksonville then we are in more trouble than even I thought.

I will give the KIPP School some credit in that it’s a non-profit and does try to educate our disadvantaged students unlike the Charter School USA schools which exist only to make a profit and the district has allowed to set up shop in neighborhoods that did not need them.

I would like to suggest that if the district finds itself in a hole because so many kids have left for charter schools that the district stop digging.

So to solve a problem either created or exacerbated by this administration, charters and magnets, it seems to me and many in the community that the supers plan is to throw ideas like paint against a wall and hope something sticks.

Let’s have a military magnet there, a k-2 here, let’s start an autism center or let’s make kids wear uniforms.

The district would rather try gimmicks rather than do things the right way. If we want to reach our potential which I believe is great, we must have disciplined schools, and a teaching staff that feels supported and is allowed to be creative and innovative. They must be allowed to teach a curriculum they believe in and support and they can’t be micromanaged. Then schools have to be joyous places where kids want to come and learn not dreary places where all they do is test prep.

Do you want to know why families leave? For the most part it’s because they don’t like the district, they don’t feel their children are safe, they don’t feel the curriculum is appropriate and they don’t believe in the districts kill and drill philosophy. They believe we have lost our way and are willing to try alternatives.  

You make their neighborhood schools safe places where kids enjoy themselves and where teachers are enthusiastic then the families that left will return in droves.

A gimmick at this school or at that school isn’t going to do the job and it is beyond me how the super and the board think they will.


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