School Board Votes on Plan for Intervene Schools
This afternoon and evening, the school board revisited the topic of what to do with the district's four intervene schools -- Raines HS, Ribault HS, Jackson HS and Northshore K-8. The board was required to submit a plan to the state DOE by February 1 about what to do in the 2011-12 school year should any of the schools not exit intervene status by reaching a "C" grade in this academic year.
The board first spent about an hour and a half in a teleconference with Commissioner Eric Smith, who reiterated that from the state's perspective, the board was required to choose to either close the school, transfer control to an educational management organization (EMO) or convert it into a charter school. The board stated that it did not believe there was an EMO or charter organization with the requisite experience who was interested in working in these schools next year. The governance issue remains the core of the disagreement between the school board and the state, and there was unquestionable tension in the conference call Monday.
There was also much conversation about the legal requirements of the differentiated accountability system and potential penalties for non-compliance, and Commissioner Smith related a list of potential fiscal consequences the district would face for non-compliance, but said repeatedly that the state Board of Education will not decide the specific plan of action for the schools.
Subsequent to the conversation with Smith, the Superintendent recommended to the board that they create a community based organization with both local education experts and community members. The newly-created CBO would have significant input on how the school was run, but that the governance of the schools remain with DCPS, a move that Smith and the state will likely reject.
A full room of citizens attended the evening decision-making session, recruited in large part by the NAACP and churches in the affected areas. Earlier in the day, the NAACP threatened to sue the state if it forced the district to hand over control of the schools to an outside entity.
In the public comment portion of the meeting, which lasted more than 90 minutes, more than 25 speakers rose to speak about their concerns for a potential EMO handoff. The debate was thick with anti-charter and political rhetoric, and the crowd was clearly supportive of the board's approach of challenging the state.
The measure passed 7-0.
Commissioner Smith is set to visit Jacksonville Friday (visiting Northshore K-8 in the morning), and the school board has a meeting scheduled with him at 2 p.m.