Dear Friends and Supporters,
As we gather around our tables this Thanksgiving season, my heart brims with gratitude for the incredible commitment and resilience shown by our community and educators in Duval County. Our collective resolve remains steadfast, and together, we are fortifying our collaborative efforts to propel student success.
This year unfolded a defining chapter with the creation of a new strategic framework—a guide for accelerating our impact over the next three years. More than a mere document, it stands as a testament to our unwavering commitment to adapt and thrive, amplifying our impact in times that demand more from all of us to address the evolving needs of our students and community.
Against the backdrop of a national teacher shortage, our community emerged as a beacon of hope, uniting to champion the passage of the 1-mil referendum. Guided by research emphasizing the importance of better investing in teacher compensation and learning opportunities for our students, our community said YES to building the robust teacher pipeline our students deserve. At the start of this school year, our local teacher shortage had shrunk from 453 to 258 vacancies.
Education partners and stakeholders collaborated to craft a story of intentional efforts to produce a more diverse teacher workforce. Notable progress continues through the 1,000 by 2025 initiative, with the percentage of diverse male teachers in Duval County growing from 7% to 8.5% and counting—a testament to champions and partners like you.
Addressing the literacy crisis in Jacksonville, our community stepped up through the READ JAX campaign. This year marked increased commitments and the establishment of a common agenda to guide aligned and strategic action for 3rd-grade reading proficiency. I can't wait to witness the acceleration of this work through aligned partnership actions, robust community engagement, and literacy-focused support in 2024 and beyond.
"As we reflect on what we are thankful for, know that for JPEF, it's you! We celebrate and appreciate your commitment to our students and community, just as we celebrate the outstanding educators enriching the lives of Duval County students each year."
Imagine yourself all dolled up, ready to walk the runway at the EDDY Awards (it’s essentially the Oscars for educators in Duval County), taking a bow alongside your favorite educator. This celebration isn't just an event; it's a heartfelt recognition of the resilience and dedication of Jacksonville's educators and community advocates to enriching the lives of our students.
The narrative of our collective journey will continue shaping in the months and years ahead. The next chapter is about us walking in the power and potential we possess to create thriving communities for the children and youth of our community. Indeed, creating those communities in every part of the city of Jacksonville will require us all to be informed and active, and to play an active role in informing and activating those within our networks.
As I reflect this holiday season, my heart is most grateful for the commitment I know you have to our students, ensuring they have the support they need in school and our community to succeed and thrive. As we give thanks, let's also anticipate the unwritten chapters and the continued impact we will create in the years to come.
Warmest wishes for a Thanksgiving filled with gratitude and joy,
Rachael Tutwiler Fortune
President, Jacksonville Public Education Fund