Strong public education that provides the best opportunities for students is necessary to achieve Jacksonville’s potential to be a leading city. Thus, each and every one of our public schools matter.
House Bill 7069 requires school districts to put immediate intervention strategies in place for turnaround schools. Turnaround schools are those that have received too many C's, D's and/or F's in recent years. Last night, interim Superintendent Dr. Patricia Willis led the school turnaround discussion during the school board workshop. Willis explained that of the Turnaround Option Plan (TOP) 2 schools, Arlington Heights, Gregory Drive and George Washington Carver’s plans were approved on Oct. 18 by the Florida State Board of Education (BOE).
Approval for Arlington Middle and Ramona Boulevard have been deferred until November.
The BOE granted Willis’ request to extend the deadline for submission of the TOP 1 plans to Nov. 15. With regard to the TOP 2 schools, she noted that none of the five were selected during the first round for “Schools of Hope” funding, but the district is reviewing and revising the plans for resubmission for the second round on Dec. 1.
Options for Duval's TOP 1 schools
The remainder of the meeting was dedicated to the TOP 1 schools: Matthew Gilbert, Northwestern and Lake Forest. The Board must select one of the three options available and notify the BOE by Nov. 15:
- Reassign the students to another school,
- Close the school and reopen as a charter or
- Contract with an outside entity to operate the school,
By Jan. 31, the Board must vote on a contract in accordance with its selected option. The Board may change its mind regarding the chosen option before Jan. 31 but must notify the BOE in writing.
Although school grades do not come out until the summer, the deadlines are set this way because the options require planning time. There was a discussion between Willis and Board Member Becki Couch (District 6) about the implications of H.B. 7069 on this process. Couch pointed out that H.B. 7069 mandates a standard contract for charter schools, which would prohibit the Board from including a safety-net provision if the TOP 1 school did, in fact, receive a C.
Board Member Scott Shine (District 2) asked for the interim superintendent's recommendation to the Board. Willis said she is waiting until after the second community assessment team (CAT) meeting at Matthew Gilbert on Thursday, because the feedback received from the over 100 attendees at the initial CAT meeting was very valuable. Willis also received additional information from the state about district-managed charters that needs to be reviewed, so she was not yet prepared to make a recommendation; however, Willis did state she was between the district-managed charter and the external operator options.
The state is not going to provide a list of approved external operators or criteria, although the operators will have to demonstrate a proven track record of moving students at the same school level as the targeted TOP 1 school. Board Chairwoman Paula Wright (District 4) shared that the last process in 2011 went well in terms of the external operators’ choice, with 100 percent success, and it is important to recognize the viability of neighborhood schools. Board Member Ashley Smith-Juarez (District 3) shared a similar sentiment, specifically that she appreciates the approach taken so far but wants to ensure the teachers and students at the TOP 1 schools know that the district believes in their ability to achieve a C; this process shouldn’t overshadow their work. Willis firmly agreed.
Willis concluded the meeting by stating that she would be looking at the successful external operators selected in 2011 and that her office will be working on this every week up through the deadlines to get the work done.
Public schools are the heart of our Jacksonville community. If these are your neighborhood schools, attend the Community Assessment Team meeting at Matthew Gilbert this Thursday at 5:30 p.m. Share your thoughts about what our public schools need at the remaining community meetings hosted by the School Board today and next week.
- Nov. 8, 6:00-7:30 PM -- Edward White High School
- Nov. 13, 6:00-7:30 PM -- Atlantic Coast High School
- Nov. 16, 6:00-7:30 PM -- William Raines High School
In order to improve our struggling schools, we must unite to support the teachers and students who work hard every day to learn and strive for success