On October 19, more than 130 participants gathered for the ONE by ONE Public Education Forum to discuss changes to school grades and the district’s proposed boundary changes. A few newer attendees were amazed that we could draw such a large and diverse crowd and facilitate a discussion that was both informative and engaging. Our goal was to have participants complete actions items:
> Contact State Legislators to ask them to suspend 2015 school grades.
> Contact the Superintendent and School Board members to make their voices heard about the proposed boundary changes.
> Share what they learned from the forum by downloading the resources and handouts from the forum.
> Consider extending the conversation by hosting us to speak at local civic groups or schools. Email Pam Paul, Executive Vice President at email@example.com.
> Attend an upcoming Parent Academy session on the transition to the Florida Standards Assessment (FSA). Register here!
Guest speakers Dr. Nikolai Vitti, DCPS Superintendent, Asya Smith, a high school student, Melissa Daniel of the Duval County Council PTAs, and Willie Brewster, teacher of Rutledge Pearson discussed the impact of recent school grade changes and proposed boundary changes on public school students and the community. They set the stage for fruitful dialogue among the other participants in attendance. Immediately after the speakers took their seats, there were break out discussions encouraging participants to share how these changes were going to impact them and their communities, provide suggestions to local public education stakeholders, and strategize ways to raise community awareness of these changes. Discussion group members expressed concern that there may be challenged with transportation and safety for some students with the proposed boundary changes. They recommended a clear and transparent communication about those changes that includes students and teachers voices as well as other organizations working on the schools that will be impacted by the changes. A need to use multiple channels (traditional media, social media) and non-traditional channels (door to door, school board members’ meetings) to gain community input about boundary changes was also highly recommended. Results from the exit surveys indicated that 88 percent of participants increased their knowledge about the boundary changes 84 percent committed to participate in the discussion about these important changes that will impact many of our local schools.
In the area of school grades, participants agreed that students should be held to higher standards but stressed the importance of teachers and students having adequate time, support, and preparation to process and adjust to these changes. There is a lack of confidence in the state accountability system due to so many changes in the last years. 75 percent of participants increased their knowledge about changes in school grades after the meeting and 65 percent committed to contact their legislators to request a pause in the release of 2015 school grades.
Monday’s turnout was the largest JPEF has had for a ONE by ONE quarterly event, and our goal is to continue expanding. There was representation from our Board of Directors and Community Advisory Team, DCPS, the faith community, and many other nonprofit organizations interested in public education. Our goal is to continue reaching out to members of these types of organizations because their feedback plays a key role in bringing the public back into public education.
The next time ONE by ONE delegates gather will be for our annual Convention at the Lexington Hotel on January 23rd, and we aim to have an even more diverse group gathering to discuss a variety of inequities and how they impact our public education system. When all of these voices and perspectives are at the table, public education advocates can start to spark some changes in our community’s schools. Together, we will continue to strategize and take action, and together we will continue empowering potential of Duval County’s public education.