Another big gamble by superintendent Vitti. Open school enrollment is a lift too far. (rough draft)

He says all the time that he is here for the long haul. That
he wants to be here while his young children go through school. That’s good and
all but that’s now typically how things work out. Superintendents at large
districts characteristically don’t last long, either leaving for greener
pastures in education businesses or working for state and federal agencies or
forced out having stayed past their welcome. I say this because Vitti’s
meteoric career trajectory doesn’t say stay for the long haul. It says
Jacksonville is a stepping-stone. I also say this because if his latest
proposal fails his bus ticket out of town will be ready to go.  Then I wonder who would be here to clean up
Vitti’s biggest gamble of all, if open enrollment, fails.
He plans to open enrollment to all our schools regardless of
where people live. In theory kids from Baldwin could go to Fletcher or anywhere
in between. Though don’t get to excited about enrolling your kid in the A elementary
school down the street from where you work or those renowned magnet schools
because neighborhood kids will still have top priority and there hasn’t been an
announcement how enrollment with them will work. Options though will go up.
In the Times Union article he said, Vitti said he wants to win back students
and parents to Duval’s traditional public schools and to stem the flow of
students and funding to area charter schools and private schools.
First kids have already returned from Charter schools over
the last couple years as more and more people have realized they put out an
inferior product. But where has the school boards resistance to charter schools
been? Since he has been here about a dozen have been approved and furthermore
aren’t their other way to improve our schools than blowing up the system we
have now?
What about making them safer? Vitti’s measures thus far,
extra security, ISSP teachers and deans have been implemented half-heartedly.
What about fighting back against standardized tests one of
the reasons many parents say they send their kids to private schools. Vitti’s
rabbi Gary Chartrand is the chair of the state board of education, why can’t
Vitti convince him that the high stakes testing culture created in Florida
schools have sucked the joy out of education for untold teachers and students
alike.
What about creating more programs that kids are interested
in and I am not just talking about the obsession with STEM. I bet we could have
two more Douglass Anderson type schools if not more.
What about making sure each class had a professional teacher
rather than a Teach for America hobbyist to teach them. His reliance on then
kneecaps hundreds of classrooms throughout the district and creates an
ever-revolving door of teachers that will need to be replaced.
What about making classes smaller and bringing in more
social workers and counselors because often why kids act up or do poorly in
school has nothing to do with school at our schools that have seen the most
amount of kids go to charter schools or take vouchers.
What about just getting the facts out there. Public schools
without a doubt are the best things going on. They out perform charter schools
as a group and they are doing well as private schools that accept vouchers
despite them being able to pick who they take and keep. Furthermore the
republican legislature isn’t trying to open up public school sports, clubs and
extra curricular events to private school, home school and charter school kids
for no reason.
There are numerous ways we can improve our schools without
sounding the death knell for dozens of neighborhood schools mostly on the west
and north sides of town. These are the schools and the neighborhoods that have
already experienced the brunt of Florida’s failed education policies.
There is also applicable and recent evidence that says this
idea will fail. Despite opportunity scholarships that allowed the students at
lower rated schools to attend higher rated ones schools like Jackson, Ribault
and Raines haven’t experienced sustained turnarounds just smaller enrollments.
Then a few years back Ed White was a C school of some
notoriety. It had a
well renowned physics club, a model UN team that was one of the best in the
state. A Drama program that put on several performances a year and an art
department that was routinely represented at shows. They also had a veteran
staff that knew what it was doing and dedicated to the school’s children.
Immediately after the opportunity scholarship students arrived the school grade
crashed and since then it has been fluctuating between an F and a C.
This
was predictable too. Statistics show that kids on opportunity scholarships did
not improve when they went to their new school and the new schools often
suffered but despite that the state insisted it was a good idea.
So
is letting kids move around for their benefit or is it to induce parents that
had already given up on public education to return? 
When
I started to write this I was begrudgedly for the proposal.
I
thought about how it would lay waste to some neighborhood schools and make
others that are already underutilized become even more fallow. I thought it was
a bit of a red herring for most as most parents who would want to leave their
schools won’t be able to provide transportation and if we did provide
transportation I couldn’t see it not being cost prohibitive.
I
thought what would stop schools from recruiting athletes or the brightest or
most talented students creating even more have and have not schools. With
Magnets we already have a two-tiered system in the county and this I imagine
would even exacerbate this problem. I thought about all those things and I was
still sort of for it.
Though
now after a few hours of reflection and the realization that there are other
ways to encourage charter school kids and voucher kids to return I have come to
the conclusion it is a lift to far and I can’t help but wonder who will clean
up the mess and what would be left if it fails.
At
the last union meeting the consensus was the super was going to fast and doing
too much and at best his results thus far have been mixed. This is too much too
soon and there are other things we can do without sacrificing neighborhoods and
schools to get charter school and private school students to return.

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