Walking into North Shore Elementary School, I was greeted by two lovely little girls with huge smiles on their faces -- both members of the safety patrol who politely directed me to the all purpose room for our gathering.
This is my first visit to a public elementary school since I have moved to Duval County -- and I'm not sure what I was expecting -- but what I experienced far surpassed any and all expectations.
The building itself is large, immaculately clean and cheerfully decorated throughout using the Dr. Seuss theme of "Oh The Places You'll Go!" The visit was part of Discover Duval Schools, an initiative of Duval County Public Schools and the Jacksonville Public Education Fund that provides community members the opportunity to visit schools throughout Jacksonville and explore the quality of public education in our city.
Principal Felicia Hardaway exemplified the energy and enthusiasm that we saw in the three classrooms we visited. She described her vision for the school, its history and the challenges facing the 669 students in her school. We visited a kindergarten classroom where children were all engaged in reading - each with their headphones on, using their tablets , all reading stories and doing activities specific to their skill levels and proficiency. We visited a fifth grade science class where children in small groups were actively engaged in a project identifying various rocks and minerals. The classroom was one of sharing, discussion and joint investigation.
Iranetta Wright, the Duval Transformation Office Region Superintendent, hit the nail on the head when she said that these visits remove the mystery of Duval Schools. I'm not sure what others think is happening in our schools on a day to day basis, but I observed fully engaged children, innovative lessons, excellence from both the students and children, an air of respect and curiosity, together with a physical environment that clearly exhibited pride, organization, comfort and safety.
As members of the Duval County community, we urge you to visit www.discoverduvalschools.org for the full schedule of dates and locations for visits for the remainder of the school year as well as the particular tour theme for each visit. These visits are not only inspiring, but eye-opening -- a way for all of us to take public ownership of public education as we all strive for high quality in "Every School, Every Classroom, for Every Student, Every Day."