Rachael Tutwiler Fortune: Great leaders are the linchpin of great schools


This guest column by JPEF President Rachael Tutwiler Fortune originally appeared in the Florida Times-Union.

Recently the Florida Department of Education released school grades for Duval County. Our public schools earned their highest marks yet; our district scored just a few points shy of an A grade.

Duval County has more A and B schools than ever — 55 percent of schools reach that high bar. We have fewer D and F schools than we did 10 years ago and our graduation rate is now more than 85 percent.

How can we put even more of our young people on the path to success? Research and experience suggest that it takes hardworking, effective educational leaders to help put kids on this path.

School leaders are the linchpins of great schools because they:

  • Recruit, develop and retain great teachers.
  • Build a school climate where students and staff feel supported to do their best work.
  • Serve as small business managers — some lead up to 200 people.
  • Activate the potential of families and the surrounding community.

Great principals are particularly key in Title 1 schools; research has long shown that schools in high-poverty areas have been historically low-performing.

This year several Title 1 schools in Duval County achieved A and B grades, including St. Clair Evans Academy, Wayman Academy of the Arts and Andrew Jackson High School of Advanced Technology. The success of the educators in these schools is changing lives and lifting young people out of poverty.

That’s why as we enter our 10th year of impact, the Jacksonville Public Education Fund is launching a new School Leadership Initiative in partnership with the Duval County Public Schools. We will be working with Title 1 school leaders in traditional and charter schools to provide on-the-job coaching, peer learning and funding for projects to improve school quality.

We will be sharing more about this initiative at our Sept. 18 EDTalks luncheon.

Our community depends on the success of our children. But for too long, income has been the best predictor of student achievement.

By investing in school leaders, our community can allow more children to realize their full potential.

Rachael Tutwiler Fortune is president of the Jacksonville Public Education Fund. She is a graduate of Duval County Public Schools.

Learn more about the School Leadership Initiative.




of public schools in Duval County earned an "A," "B," or "C" in 2021-2022.