Promising Turnaround: The Leadership Schools at Eugene Butler
After 15 years of struggle to get past its reputation as a failing school, Eugene Butler Middle School is showing tremendous promise as the home to two new single gender leadership academies under one roof. The Young Women’s and Young Men’s Leadership Academies at Eugene Butler have captured the hearts and hopes of their school leaders, teachers, students, parents and community partners, all determined to prove that all students can achieve excellence in an environment of high expectations and high levels of support. Our hats are off to reporter Tessa Duvall and The Florida Times-Union for featuring an intimate and in-depth look at the school’s journey, showing an encouraging, though realistic picture of the school’s transformation.
The Jacksonville Public Education Fund has closely followed Butler’s progress - our hearts and hopes also captivated by the potential of the school’s turnaround. The new Butler harnesses multiple strategies for success - passionate, talented and proven school leaders and teachers; powerful support programs like Teach for America, City Year and Boys and Girls Clubs; high standards for achievement and discipline; and a complete school makeover featuring new branding, murals and uniforms. To help promote Butler’s progress, we held a ONE by ONE Forum there last fall to feature the school’s innovative restructuring, hosted Jacksonville Bar Association Leaders for a tour and luncheon to discuss the school’s progress and connected Deutsche Bank volunteers for a day of service to makeover the girls science lab. One of our donors sponsored the school’s spiffy new uniforms as well as the white dresses and tuxedos for the girls and boys to wear at the school’s first Cotillion and Beautillion, an experience the students will always remember. And, we successfully nominated The Leadership Schools at Butler for the new Jacksonville Business Journal Innovation Awards and they won.
Superintendent Nikolai Vitti is cautiously optimistic about the school’s progress, and eager to expand the model to more middle schools. While the reality is that most Butler students are not on grade level in reading and math, nearly half showed at least a year’s growth at mid-year and the hope is that end of year results will be strong. Although it will take time, we expect to see more students succeeding academically at Butler and other transformations thanks to this innovative model and investments from the Quality Education for All Fund. Vitti said that Butler could add a 9th grade cohort next year and could potentially expand to a full high school thereafter.
We commend Dr. Vitti and principals Tamara Williams and Truitte Moreland for their efforts to transform Eugene Butler Middle School into a model that provides a high quality education for all of its students!