Some help for the Duval Partners for Excellence

What was originally created to help fund raise and find mentors for our four most struggling schools, Duval Partners for excellence has now been changed into an education management organization. Since none of the hand picked cronies, sycophants and quite frankly out of their depth board members have been in a modern public school I thought maybe they could use some suggestions how to turn those schools around if it comes to it.

The first thing they should do is start a come home campaign. At a recent school board meeting Becki Couch said there were over 3000 students who could be attending those schools but had chosen to go elsewhere. I would try and get those kids back and I would do so by convincing them and their families that those schools would become academically rigorous and safe schools to attend.

The next thing is to make those schools safe and academically rigorous schools to attend.

They should tell the teachers that they were trusted and no longer would there be an arbitrary percentage of students they could not fail. I would have them teach the material and make it rigorous, which would mean that if somebody passed a class it was because they earned it and not because a teacher gave them a grade or pushed them through. I would tell the teachers they could go as slow as they felt their kids needed, they could reteach if necessary and that the pacing guide was a suggestion and that nobody was going to get in trouble for being more than five days behind. After a few weeks I would move kids around and have groups that were quickly moving through the material and groups that needed extra time.

Then at the same time the board should make sure the teachers and students had good learning environments. Rudeness, disrespect and violations of the code of conduct would not be tolerated and consequences would be swift and strict. If you came to learn you would have nothing to be afraid of. If you came to cut up or steal learning time from your peers or teachers then you would have a tough time. The adults not the children would be running the schools.

I don’t think they should dismantle the staffs but everybody should be teaching. Academic coaches would have nearly full loads and even assistant principals would be expected to teach a class or two. It would be all hands on deck and this would stop admins and psuedo admins from losing touch with the jobs that teachers do. It would also help keep classes smaller and hopefully allow us for some electives. If kids have fun classes or classes to look forward to then they would do better; we can’t make schools dreary places and expect them to do well.

They should tell the teachers to be prepared to work long hours but not to be worried about volumes of data notebooks, two-page lesson plans and complicated board configurations. Put up a daily agenda and then go. Spend the time you have been doing those things the last few years figuring out how to connect with the kids and keeping their families involved. I would want my principals and A.P.s in the classrooms looking for quality instruction not word walls.

Then the principals can’t be afraid to upset parents. If they are doing what is right and the kids aren’t and suffer consequences (failing, suspensions etc.) for it, well that’s okay.

Finally not only would I instruct my teachers not to teach to the F-Cat but I would tell them not to even mention it. About a week before it was taken the principals could have an assembly to discuss its importance and that would be it.

That is how I would turn around those schools. Not splitting the schools into two theme schools each or having a board of I am sure concerned but I can’t see how they are qualified, take over. Hey look Jacksonville we (the school board) haven’t been able to fix those schools, so we are going to hand pick some of our friends to do it. Why am I not optimistic?

If the school board had tried the ideas above we probably wouldn’t be in this mess now.

Chris Guerrieri

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