On March 1, the Mayor's Education Summit drew over 400 eager child, caregiver and school advocates to learn about the emerging convergence of the city, district and community around a shared plan for dramatically increasing support for parents and caregivers so they can improve their children's success in school.
Mayor Alvin Brown kicked off the summit with a call for unprecedented collaboration towards this end saying, "When we all work together to pool our resources, we will empower a whole new generation to reach their full potential."
Superintendent Nikolai Vitti also advocated for collaboration and alignment to connect the significant expertise and resources that already exist in the community with school district resources to create a city-wide Parent Academy.
"We need to set aside our titles, our perceived need for power and perceived differences to
work together on behalf of kids," Dr. Vitti said during his presentation.
He emphasized that many organizations are already using the same research-based approaches and serving parents all over Jacksonville but they are working in isolation. The key, he said, is to get all of these entities and the district on the same page, to pool resources and efforts in order to insure consistent standards and results.
Frank Denton, the editor of the Florida Times-Union and moderator of a panel on parent involvement said, "There is not a town in this country with more organizations focused on education and I am optimistic that Jacksonville can make a big leap forward with all of them working together."
Deputy Secretary of Education Tony Miller flew in for the day to applaud the leadership and momentum building in Jacksonville andcited numerous stats to convey the nation's urgency for closing the achievement gap.
Secretary Miller urged education reformers in Jacksonville and in the state of Florida to embrace those strategies that have pole vaulted other countries to the top in student education outcomes. These are 1) focus - on high standards and best practices, 2) collaboration - among teachers and between schools and communities, and 3) innovation - especially in teaching practices and use of technology. He urged a focus on early childhood education, technology and developing master teachers - and to measure Florida's progress against international standards.
We are pleased at the Jacksonville Public Education Fund to see the strong alignment between the ONE by ONE priority of Family and Caregiver Involvement with the Mayor's and Superintendent's vision.
The next steps for the creation of the Parent Academy include a district task force to convene multiple organizations to provide input. The Jacksonville Public Education Fund will follow the progress of the task force and emerging plan to help stakeholders to stay informed and learn how they can be involved with this important initiative.