Crony capitalism is alive and well in Floirda

The Florida legislature is preparing its annual budget and we
should be alarmed by how much they are planning to allocate to charter schools.
The house is budgeting 90 million in construction and maintenance
costs for the states 650 charter schools, many of which are managed by for
profit companies. Since the facilities are privately held this is money the
public will never recover if one of these charter schools fails which has
already happened 313 times over the years in Florida, costing us hundreds
of millions of dollars.
It’s not so baffling that we are giving these companies
millions in extra money when you consider the hundreds of thousands of dollars
in campaign contributions charter schools have given to the members of the legislature.
It however gets worse, at the same time the legislature is
planning on giving charters 90 million it is planning to allocate only 50
million to the states 4,300 public schools. Furthermore since 2011 charters
have received 326 million in maintenance funds while public schools have received
barely over a hundred million.
Maybe this could be justified if charter schools as a group
were doing better than public schools but they aren’t.
Isn’t it time we ended this crony capitalism and instead
invested in our public schools? After all they are by far the better

The Times Union’s embarrassing privatization agenda

First read the article, then read my response and if you think I am out of line let me know.

Um this is what the Times Union is writing about? Not the embarrassing and inappropriate curriculum? Not discipline which has gotten worse? Not the micromanagement and intimidation of teachers?  Not the superintendent who is article trying to privatize our public schools? Not parents who aren’t capable of helping their children? Not the millionaires who are buying our schools?



This is the letter I sent the “reporter”.

Your last piece embarrassed me, all kids need is yellow sahes and certificates and they will be successful, oh wait how about putting them on medicine, giving them small classes and metal health counselors or you know the things I and other public school teachers have been advocating for, begging for, for years. 

If this kid would have had responsible parents and a school system with the resources it needs when he was in public school he would have been successful there too.

I doubt this kid is getting the same quality of education he would receive in public school, and your article should have been about how public schools are starved of resources.

I have to say the paper gets worse and worse with every article I read. 

And I am done, I will not help you with articles any more, I can no longer hope you and the Times Union get it together and put the city before your privatization agenda.

Chris Guerreri

We need a paper that is going to fight for our schools, unfortunately we do not have one.

Note: A reader said they felt I was being to hard on the parent. The article said now the child is on medication and getting counseling, which leads me to believe these are new developments.  At the end of the day though, what do I know? I imagine the mom feels overwhelmed and is doing the best she can. I wish them and all the children at Daniel nothing but the best. My heart aches for them and I hope so much for them.

That being said, this blog wasn’t about Daniel it was about the Times Union supporting the privatization of our schools and make no mistake that is what is happening. Public schools are placed in no win situations and when they ultimately fail the Times Union goes, hey look over their the private sector has a school that is working.

The article was little more than an ad for a private school and one that takes McKay Scholarships and Personal Learning vouchers.

I am going to go ahead and say it, it is time for Vitti to go (very rough draft)

This is what the chair of the Alachua county school
board Eileen Roy said this week in a letter to the editor about the movement
out of Tallahassee to privatization Florida’s public schools, and make no
mistake that when Tallahassee says school choice what they really mean is privatization.

The Sun editorial (1/21/16) got it exactly right. The FL
Legislature increasingly diverts funding away from public schools. The
Corporate Tax Voucher Scholarship allows corporations a tax deductions if they
donate an equal amount to private school scholarship vouchers. The state does
not collect the tax revenue, reducing the amount of taxpayer money used to fund
public schools.  As public schools lose state funding, they are
weakened—insidiously and inexorably.

These private schools are
completely unregulated—no teacher evaluations, no state tests, no proscribed
curriculum, no certified teachers, no mandates—all of which are required of
public schools.  Eighty-three percent of these private schools are
religious.  Should taxpayer money be used to fund private schools or
religious education?  If state testing is so important, why is it only
required in public schools?

Here’s the scary part: 
the Corporate Tax Voucher funding increases each year by 25%. This is
exponential growth.  Initially capped at $50 million statewide, tax
revenue diverted to vouchers has risen year by year to $558 million for school
year 2016-17. By 2019-20 it will be over $1 billion– a billion dollars of
taxpayer money diverted from public to private schools.

Initially, these scholarships
were promoted for children in poverty, but the annual income level to
participate has risen to $63,000 for a family of 4—allowing middle class
families to enroll.
For- profit charter schools add
to the draining of funding from public schools.  Florida has lost $70
million over the last 15 years due to charters closing and taking public
investment in their facilities with them.  Seven schools in Alachua County
have closed, costing taxpayers more than $1.2 million. This money, spent for
rent, lease, or mortgage payments, cannot be recouped by the district after
charters close.

The conclusion is inescapable. Florida
legislators are steadily moving toward their ultimate goal–to privatize public
education. The Southern Legal Council, a local non-profit law firm, is suing
the state, challenging this injustice.  Please consider coming to a
meeting to hear about this lawsuit.  The dates of several one-hour
presentations at regional high schools are listed on the School Board’s
website. Our public schools are in extreme danger.   

 As local parent and public school
advocate Khanh-Lien Banko put it at the Jan. 19 School Board meeting, “We are
in a dogfight for the soul of public education.”
This is what Superintendent Vitti said to First Coast
News when asked about some school choice bills quickly moving through the Florida
Legislature. “Would there be a detrimental
effect on our budget? Likely. But I don’t support or oppose legislation only on
fiscal matters,” said Duval County Public Schools Superintendent Dr.
Nikolai Vitti.

Currently some districts have school
choice for specific programs. There are two bills in the state House and Senate
that would knock down county zone barriers, making it possible for parents to
place their children in any school that has vacancies. Dr. Vitti supports the

“Philosophically, I am supportive of it because I think parents
should not be stuck in their neighborhood school. I think when we talk about
certain parents who are stuck, we are usually talking about issues of class and
social-economic status,” said Vitti.

I submit the parents at the 313 failed charter schools wish they would have stuck with their neighborhood schools and in fact most parents would love their neighborhood schools if they were done correctly.

Also did you notice the difference? The chair
of the Alachua County school board said, no more we must fight for our public
schools and Superintendent Vitti said, I am all for the continued dismantling
of them.

Since superintendent Vitti arrived a
little over three years ago, he has embraced the corporate reform movement. He
has partnered with the New Teacher project whose over arching philosophy is you
can fire teachers to improvement. He has expanded Teach for America which takes
non education majors puts them through a 
six week boot camp and then in our neediest schools where the vast
majority serve two years assuring constant churn and burn and Charter Schools have
increased over three hundred percent from a little over ten to nearly forty.

It is no surprise Vitti loves charter
schools either as the man responsible for bringing him to town, Gary Chartrand is
also responsible for bringing the KIPP charter school to town, the same school,
we gave 1.5 million dollars through a grant this past fall. Vitti often refers
to it as a model charter school. Well according to the state its grades have
been an F, lowest grade in northeast Florida, a miraculous B, a grade protected
C (should have been a D but schools at te time could only drop one letter
grade), another B and they are projected to make another D this year. This for
a school that requires parents to be involved, has a longer school day and
spends about a third more per child. Chartrand by the way has given thousands
of dollars to most of the school board members too.  

Then has our district improved because of
all of Vitti’s reforms? Some people say yes and point to our graduation rates
which have gone up but do you know where else graduation rates have gone up?
EVERYWHERE is where.

Teacher morale is rock bottom and they almost universally hate the curriculum,
discipline is worse than ever, and if you want statistics, the state says we
are a C district, we were a B before he arrived and the amount of failing and D
schools have nearly doubled since he got here.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we had a leader which
said our public schools are the best thing going in town and data says they
are. Wouldn’t it be nice if Vitti was committed to doing things the right way by
having supported teachers and disciplined schools?

Nope we get a guy that says, bring on privatization.

It’s shameful and its time the city said
enough was enough.

Can republicans in Florida please stop pretending they care about local control?

Like I imagine many of you I don’t, I don’t always
agree with my school board or superintendent. That being said, I would rather they
be in charge of our schools than Tallahassee. Unfortunately the legislature in Tallahassee
emboldened by hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from
charter school companies is seeking to take away local school boards rights to
manage our schools.

They are proposing a constitutional amendment that
would allow the state rather than districts to authorize charter schools.

I personally believe charter schools already violate
the constitution which calls for a uniform,
efficient, safe, secure, and high quality system of free public schools that
allows students to obtain a high quality education. Having two parallel schools
systems one of public schools managed by local elected boards and one of for
profit charter schools managed by privately appointed boards is neither uniform
nor efficient. That issue will go to court in March.

Along with violating
the constitution by chronically under funding and kneecapping the class size
amendment the legislature now wants to usurp local school boards. Also from the
constitution, The school board shall operate, control and supervise all free
public schools within the school district and determine the rate of school
district taxes within the limits prescribed herein.

It seems to me the
republican dominated legislature only cares about local control when it doesn’t
interfere with its donors and friends making money.

The Jacksonville Public Education Fund’s one on one conference review, part 5, Final Thoughts

By Greg Sampson
JPEF: Some
Final Thoughts
By the time
the second breakout was over, most people had left. I too did not wait for the
last wrap-up but left. I plan to attend in the future, but I will leave after
the morning sessions are done. I encourage everyone to do the same.
superintendent, JPEF high-ups, and Board members were long gone by the time the
break-outs were over. Enough said?
The greatest
failing of the conference was not giving the tables time to discuss the issues
and provide feedback. The ratio of lecture to discussion was running about 8 to
If they want
to know how to start on time, I can give them some ideas. First, don’t beg
people to get to their seats. Start the program. Start it. If that drum corps
had marched into the ballroom promptly at 9 AM, people would have noticed.
Also, cut off the food 15 minutes before. That clears out the line. With
nothing else to do, people will drift into their places.

Finally, and
again, we came with a lot to say. JPEF, you didn’t give us one-tenth the time
we needed to say it. Do better in the future.

The Jacksonville Public Education Fund’s one on one conference review, part 4, analysis and opinion.

By Greg Sampson
Public Education Fund 1 X 1 Conference
Analysis and
First, let’s
deal with the elephant in the room. When it comes to the curriculum guides,
especially the elementary ELA curriculum guides, the superintendent expressed
in this forum what he previously said in others. So kwitcherbitchin’ teachers,
he has committed to what he is doing and will not change course. (This is my
analysis, not my opinion about the issue.)
You are in a
Catch 22, elementary teachers. If you follow the curriculum and are successful
as defined by test results, he will release you from the curriculum and you can
do what you want. But then, if his curriculum made you successful (as defined
by test scores), why would you change? As for those of you who are not
successful, it is because you are not following the curriculum. Just do it!
To place the
emphasis on what needs it, I will put it in all caps. Mia Jones, District 14,
Florida House of Representatives, warned us: PUBLIC EDUCATION IS REALLY UNDER
From a woman
who is serving on the legislative committees and has a first look at the new
From there,
I dismiss the pep rally feel JPEF tried to give the conference. We should not
get caught up in such nonsense. There are real achievements to celebrate, but
there are real battles to fight.
Take the
celebration of the graduation rate. What nobody mentioned was the quotes from
politicians leaking into the press that they think we are faking the graduation
rate and they will do something about it.
Yes, you
read that right. And you have concluded correctly. For those people, they know
what they want to believe and will not let the facts get in their way. They
have the power and will change the facts to fit their belief. Or pocketbook,
depending how deep they are in with the hedge funds and charter school
But I
It was a
celebration of achievement. That is expected and should not detract from the
opportunity to talk with people I would not otherwise have a chance to meet.
Other than
the graduation rates, there was little hard data to support the applause taking
place. Sorry, but discipline data is subject to great manipulation and cannot
be trusted. I offered my observation that black boys are judged more critically
than others when it comes to behavior in the schools, but I don’t think anyone
listened. Indeed, I found many persons not knowledgeable about various measures
such as ATOSS, which at my table was put forth as an alternative school like a
charter. I had to explain it was a place where students suspended could go
until their suspension was over.
The biggest
criticism I can offer is that JPEF, the conference, Dr. Vitti (and by
implication, the District) buys into the idea that the TEST SCORE defines all:
good schools, great teachers, and the like. Everything in the end came down to
how students scored on the test.
Once you
realize that premise is false, the entire house of cards collapses. Goodbye,
TNTP, you think a great teacher is someone who produces the highest test
scores. Stupid. Your entire existence is based on that flaw.
TFA. Well, your people can’t even produce exceptional test scores because,
well, first year teachers wherever they come from, are learning on the job and
will take 3 to 5 years to gain effectiveness. But wait, your people leave after
two years, and now you have the chutzpah to pay them to be coaches to your
neophytes stepping into a classroom for the first time. Don’t believe me? Talk
to TNTP (ha, ha!)
is premised on the test. We have a job to do: to educate parents and our
community about how bad the test is, how badly it is written, how it does not
match the content we are told to teach, and how it is blighting their
children’s futures and their souls.
Take away
the test and the rest is meaningless as far as what took place at the
conference. The focus went away from the stated theme: equity in education for
all students.
Having said
that, I was glad I went and will go again. We teachers are unhappy about how we
are cut out of the discussion, how we are not listened to, and are
marginalized. Opportunities like this should not be passed by.
Imagine if,
when Dr. Vitti asked for teachers in the room to stand up, instead of 20 there
were 200. 200 teachers in place, not pushing an agenda, but interacting with
the community and telling their stories, explaining why the tests are
destroying education and children, and driving the conversation where it needs
to go.

JPEF is not
the enemy. It pushes initiatives that we disagree with but it also supports
policies that we want. We need to take advantage of these opportunities.

The Jacksonville Public Education Fund’s one on one conference review, part 3, The New Teacher project takes over the district.

By Greg Sampson

JPEF One X One Conference: Breakout Sessions
There were
5: Getting Young Children Ready for School; Developing, Retaining and
Empowering Great Teachers; Preparing Students for Success After High School;
Social-Emotional Learning and Discipline Policies; and Testing &
I was
interested in 3 of them but could only go to 2: the second about great
teachers, which I figured was about professional development; the SEL and
discipline; and the testing sessions.
First I went
to the Social-Emotional Learning Session. I was disappointed that they didn’t
offer any knowledge or assistance. They spent the time explaining what they did
and where they did it. While schools need to attend to the social and emotional
needs of children, I found their presentation was more of a sales pitch than a
sharing of professional knowledge.
We were
tight on time. (More on that in my analysis post.) I allowed others to speak in
the brief 7 minutes we were allowed a table discussion. When it ended, the
volunteer at my table invited me to add my comments, which she would write down
(dutifully?) on the Post-It Chart as she assured me the conference organizers
would review all feedback given.
I said I
needed at least 20 minutes to respond but I did say that the district had
secured a grant to place a social worker and counselor in every middle school
this year to attend to these needs of our students. I also took the opportunity
to provide other feedback about the state accountability system—broken and
needs to be recreated from the ground up and how teachers faced pressure to
keep on the curriculum guides even when they realized the needs of students
meant they needed to stop and take care of their students’ needs.
In other
words, teachers can’t keep up with the pace demanded by district curriculum
guides and if they addressed the needs in their classroom on any given day,
that’s one more day they fall behind while facing pressure for catching up.
Then I went to
the session on teacher quality, advertised on how to retain effective teachers.
Before then,
during the AM table share-out, we were asked to say one thing we had learned. I
made something up because I didn’t learn anything new in the AM (I do keep up),
but the TNTP presentation … WOW. I learned how deeply TNTP has burrowed into
this district and their mission philosophy has been adopted by the
Before I
begin, let me say that TNTP began as “The New Teachers Project.” For whatever
reasons that made sense to them, they abandoned the words but retained the
acronym as their brand. They are trying to create a new type of teacher, but
don’t want anyone to know? Hmmmmm … maybe we can go by the first three
letters—they are trying to blow up the teaching profession and to quote Harold
Hill, they end with P and that rhymes with T and that stands for Trouble for
The mission
of TNTP as shared: ending the injustice of educational inequity by providing
excellent teachers to students who need them most.  That’s my paraphrasing from my notes and I
tried to Google them to give you their exact wording, but somehow that’s not
To push
their mission, TNTP has 3 focuses (foci for my Latin teacher with whom I enjoy
lunchroom conversations most days): rigorous academics, talented people,
supportive environments.
In their
DCPS work, it is number two that they are focused on. (Yes, I get the double
presentation trotted out the quoted-so-often-it’s-become-a-cliché mantra that the
quality of the teacher is the number one factor in student learning. Then they
described their work with the district.
One: Supply DCPS with strong, new teachers. That means helping DCPS hire better
teachers than they have done in the past. The Big Idea that they shared was
that the earlier a teacher was hired, the better the new teacher quality tended
to be. “The best people, they want to know where they are going before
graduation. You (DCPS) used to hire teachers in July. All the best candidates
are gone by then. If you are a top college student, wouldn’t you find a job
before you graduated? That’s how the charters get the best people. They recruit
in November of the senior college year. We helped DCPS by getting you to go
after them earlier in the year.” Also, “DTO gets first choice. They are allowed
to recruit before other schools. That’s how DCPS is getting the best in front
of the greatest need.” “The earlier the hire, the higher the quality and we
have data to back that up.”
Good goggumugga!
I admire how these people can keep a straight face. Now understand that this
was my second breakout, and when I arrived, the people were too busy taking
selfies with one another to get the second presentation underway. I had to ask
someone if I was in the right place. They started 15 minutes late and were
totally unconcerned about what they were supposed to do. When they cut their
presentation off at the designated time, that they were not finished did not
TNTP, for telling us that we did not matter.
Two: Grow all teachers.
Cliché after
cliché. I will spare you the tedium.
Three: Help schools keep their top teachers.
retention is a big issue.”
“It is not a
failure to retain teachers; it is the failure to retain the right teachers. Do
we really want to keep the teachers who aren’t great?”
presented nine strategies to retain great teachers that would not cost extra
dollars. (So shut up, audience member, who offered the feedback that more money
for teachers would keep the best teachers from leaving Duval County for other
places that paid more.)
“A high
percentage of low-performing teachers remain in the classroom.”
“What we
ask: do they have the will or the skill to improve?”
“It takes 11
hires to find another great teacher to replace one who left.”
“We work
with districts so they can identify among their applicants what teachers will
become great.”
2nd career teachers who will take a leave of absence from their
chosen path to spend 5 or 10 years in a classroom is a great idea. Research has
shown that such people produce learning gains over the College of Ed lifelong
Let me make
it clear. TNTP is driving district policy over the hiring and support of
teachers. First, they think that great teachers are born, not made. They think
our classrooms are filled with people punching a time clock that don’t give a
hoot about their students. They whisper in the ears of our superintendent and
his cabinet that if only, if ONLY, they could get the right people, the wicked
Witch of the West would be melted, her sister long ago buried under a house,
and the flying monkeys sent off to wherever. All would be right in Munchkin
However, I
live in Realville. Nothing could be further from the truth.
If you want
great teachers, you have to develop them. That takes a commitment to authentic
professional development that this District refuses to adopt.

(And that’s
a whole ‘nother post.)

The Jacksonville Public Education Fund’s one on one conference review, part 2, The Panel Discussion

By Greg Sampson
One X One
conference 2016
Part Two,
Panel Discussion
When Dr.
Vitti completed his presentation, he sat on stage with a panel moderated by the
chair of NE Florida United Way. On the panel were a student, a teacher/parent,
a parent/community member.
The student
led off and asked the superintendent about teacher creativity in lessons given
the new curriculum mandated and monitored by the district.
response (hereafter V:) We need the curriculum to match rigor to the standards
(Florida standards, which are in essence Common Core—this parenthetical
explanation is mine, not Vitti’s.) Individual teachers will have a hard time
developing lessons on their own that will attain this level. When they teach
the curriculum as written, they will automatically reach the level required by
the standards. Teachers do have flexibility; teachers do improvise. As time
goes on, the District will begin to differentiate among teachers who produced
the desired results (high passing rate of FSA) and allow them to amend the curriculum
in their classrooms. Teachers who do not do as well will have to follow what is
set forth.
It is hard to follow a rigid timeline in the classroom. Students don’t relate
to the content of the curriculum. Could we have courses that allow students to
study their own cultures?
V: There is
more flexibility to offer such courses in middle school and high school.
Elective courses are needed to keep students engaged.
member: The superintendent is consistent in the message he brings. His answers
do not change from place to place as the audience is different. As a member of
the Jacksonville community, who hears from many people, I will raise their
concern: boundaries matter. Why do some schools have resources while others lack,
especially in the DTO schools (DTO schools are those in the special Quality
Education for All initiative, essentially the schools that feed into
Raines/Ribault/Jackson high schools)?
V: DTO gets
substantially more resources than other schools in the District. For example,
all DTO schools will have 1 to 1 technology by the fall. (This means there will
be one computer for every student.) If parents have a concern that their
children do not have a textbook for their grade level content areas, they should
call the school, the principal, or me.
P/C: How do
we get a school out of DTO? When do we figure it is successful? And will the
larger salaries continue for the teachers who work there?
schools follow research-based strategies and have reduced bureaucracy to deal
with. For example, the regional superintendent, Iranetta Wright, does not
report through the Chief of Schools; she reports directly to me. Some DTO
schools are performing more highly than other schools in the district. We
placed schools into DTO based on their feeder patterns (to Raines, Ribault, and
Jackson). Some schools will exit the program. They will receive greater
autonomy and flexibility at that point.
asked about the boundary changes.
V: The
proposed changes are across the district. We targeted schools with low
enrollment based upon capacity. Our changes are for schools where over 50% of
the students have left for other options: magnets, charters, home schooling,
vouchers. We want children to return to their neighborhood schools. Increasing
the utilization of available seats is important. We are prevented from building
new schools in areas of population growth if we have under-utilization
elsewhere. We can’t build new schools in Mandarin if we have seats available in
Northwest Jacksonville. That gives the charter operators freedom to move into
such areas as Mandarin and open new schools when we cannot.
The changes
are also related to performance issues. We need to fundamentally restructure
schools that are not performing (according to state tests). Saying we will try
harder is not enough. Parents are leaving underperforming schools. Some schools
are broken. We need to transform them so parents will buy back in and re-enroll
their children.
For the most
part, principal changes have settled. Things are stabilizing. There will be
fewer changes in the future.
I didn’t
write down who asked it, but the subject of school grades came up.
V: Give it
time. At this moment, you cannot decide upon school performance based upon the
grade. The state is undergoing a massive flux given the change in standards,
tests, and performance levels. Eventually things will settle, hopefully, and
when we again have consistency from year to year school grades will indicate
the quality of a school. Until then, look at more things: the school culture,
the relationships between children and adults, and the program offerings of the
school when making a decision about what school is right for a child.
We were
done. They released us to have discussions at our tables about the question of
the conference—equity in education.

I didn’t
keep notes when a few tables were randomly selected to report to the whole
assembly, but I do remember that another table reported an issue I raised:
given that we are going to online curriculums, where students do not receive a
textbook, aren’t we creating inequity for students whose parent cannot afford a
computer and/or an internet connection? Go to the library is not an acceptable
answer given the cutback in library hours over the years, especially in the
evenings and weekends, and the environment is not the same as a quiet place at

The Jacksonville Public Education Fund’s one on one conference review, part 1

By Greg Sampson
One X One
Conference 2016
As the day
began, 500 were announced in attendance. The One X One conference, staged by
the Jacksonville Public Education Fund, kicked off around 9:15 AM with two
enthusiastic emcees who had difficulty getting the attendees to get into their
seats for the 9:00 AM starting time. But things soon got underway.
This is the
first of several posts on the conference. In this one, I will try to be a good
reporter and describe the events and what took place without analysis or
opinion in the morning. In succeeding posts, I will offer my analysis and
describe the breakout sessions in the afternoon.
Our local
high schools were on display for particular strengths. Three culinary programs
offered a complimentary breakfast: Terry Parker, Frank Peterson, and Raines.
They had a competition that was judged by the head chef at the hotel. Terry
Parker won and received a small trophy. Westside High presented the colors with
their drumline for the obligatory Pledge of Allegiance.
During this
time, event organizers tried to get attending students to sit at every table.
Each tab le was facilitated by a City Year volunteer. At my table, the CYV got
up and corralled two young men who attend the Butler Leadership Academy to join
us. Other than that, the only other person at my table was a man who managed a
nonprofit service agency providing afterschool services on the Westside. (As I
looked around the room, I saw that most tables were not filled. Including the
students, we only had 5 out of 10 seats filled at my table. The attendees were
assigned to tables by the organizers. )
As the
program began, we were welcomed by the Chair of the JPEF Board of Directors.
During his brief intro, he cited the increase in the DCPS graduation rate of
more than 20% in 6 years. This was the only accomplishment he mentioned.
Mia Jones,
state legislator for District 14 in the Florida House, performed the
invocation. She begged the indulgence of those present so she could go off her
assigned role and thank a retired teacher in the room who had been influential
in her life. Then she said, “I was thinking about what I should say as I drove
back from Tallahassee last night after being in committee meetings all day.
Public Education is really under assault.”
Trey Csar,
President of JPEF, congratulated DCPS for achieving the highest graduation rate
for African-Americans in 2015. (A lot of congratulations went on during this
time: applaud this, applaud that person, high level backslapping needed the
attendees to slap their hands together repeatedly, applaud yourselves …)
The theme of
this year’s One by One, the fourth JPEF has organized, was equity. Not
equality, but equity in that education should meet the needs of every
individual student at a level of high quality. Dr. JeffriAnne Wilder, UNF, gave
the keynote address, which focused on her research into the the career of
W.E.B. Dubois, whose name she pronounced correctly, the staff member from Lenny
Curry’s office who introduced her, did not—going with the standard French pronunciation
of Du-Bwah, rather than the actual pronunciation of Du-boys, to show how
persons of color have been overlooked for their achievements.
Then Dr.
Vitti took the stage. He mentioned there was a friendly bet going on in the
room whether he could stay within his time limit. (If you have ever been to a
Vitti event, you will know that he will will take the microphone, a sip of
water from a bottle handed to him, and talk for hours non-stop without taking a
Dr. Vitti
recognized the district administrators and principals who were in the room.
Then he acknowledged that they supported the real people who made it work in
the classroom and asked teachers to stand up. There were around 20 of us.
The slide
show began. Dr. Vitti acknowledged with a laugh that everyone knows he always
has a slide show. The slides documented the progress and achievement of the
District with data:
Increase in graduation rate, which is now
closing in on the state average
Increase in total number of graduates, which
means we aren’t achieving an increase in rate by manipulating numbers
Bridge to Success, the drop-back-in program
increasing its success rate to 29% from 4%
First among urban districts for African-American
grad rate
First among urban districts for English Language
Learner grad rate
Rose to fifth out of the seven urban districts
for Economically Disadvantaged grad rate (ED is determined by who is on the
federal free or reduced lunch program, in which the price of their school meals
is subsidized.)
Increase of 20 percentage points in the grad
rate for students with disabilities (what most of us have traditionally called
special education)
College readiness increase
Number of dual enrollment courses up to 10,229
from 6,871 when he arrived
Industry certifications earned by students
Scholarship dollars awarded to students up to
$81 million from $31 million
NAEP results
Projected school grades
DTO teacher quality and investment in technology
for those schools
Suspensions down, even for Hispanic and
African-American students, and the gap in the rate of suspensions for such
students vs. white students has narrowed
Restorative Justice programs handled 2000 cases
Increase in VPK reading and math achievement
(measured by testing)
Increase in the diversity of school administrators
Dr. Vitti
spoke about the challenge of individualizing/personalizing the education
experience for each student versus the old way of the factory model in the
classroom. He appealed to us to support school choice in differentiating the
offerings of Duval County’s public schools to compete in the marketplace with
the alternatives.
his presentation, Dr. Vitti sat on stage with a panel comprised of a parent, a
student, and a community member, run by the head of the United Way of NE Florida.

I’m at 980
words, so I’ll break and post this. Part Two will follow. I don’t want to
shortchange you from the panel interaction for fear exceeding the tolerance of
blog readers for sheer number of words.