As Outreach Vice Chair for Forward, I had the opportunity to be a facilitator for the Mystery Guest Lunch on September 30. I had no idea that I would be guiding a conversation among different community leaders and Superintendent Dr. Nickolai Vitti. As a facilitator, my job was to remain neutral and encourage participants to ask questions and share their thoughts.
At the table were nonprofit organization professionals with ties to education - public and private. School Board member, Cheryl Grymes attended the Mystery Guest Lunch as well.
I'd like to share a brief summary of topics discussed over the course of the lunch hour.
Common Core State Standards
A nonprofit professional and parent expressed her dissatisfaction with FCAT pep rallies and parties. Before the Superintendent arrived, we'd discussed the "moving target" each year in public education. Participants at the table believed that Florida would benefit from a national assessment where our state would be compared to others. Dr. Vitti expressed his support of the Common Core State Standards. He believes that as a state, Florida should participate in a national assessment.
As participants were getting to know one another, the question of who should be the central hub for convening different agencies and community members together was discussed. There was a shared consensus among the group that it was important that different nonprofit organizations, local governmental agencies and the District identify common goals and work collaboratively to achieve shared goals.
Comparing Duval County to St. Johns County
A participant voiced her concern about various people forming the opinion that St. Johns County is better than Duval County. Dr. Vitti explained that the St. Johns County students have different backgrounds and come from different socio-economic families than those in Duval County. Dr. Vitti informed participants that his family resides in the city and his children attend public schools in Duval County.
"What can we do to help you?" a participant asked.
Dr. Vitti and Cheryl Grymes expressed that community support was needed moving forward. Although the community wants and deserves results - it isn't a quick fix. It will take time and a cultural change within the Duval County Public School District from the top level to the lower levels.