The Times Union’s ham handed support of the district is offensive

By Bradford Hall

The Florida
Times-Union is considered by many a very bias and lopsided press. After reading
its latest editorial titled ‘Duval school system’s progress clear,’ I
furthermore believe the editorial staff is enthralled in a love affair with someone
who is a fan of Superintendent Nikolai Vitti. As an education advocate, I
commend the district for its successes but advocacy is bringing awareness to
not only the things that make us look good but also championing best practices
so we can eradicate those things not enabling total success.

The Times-Union
unfairly bases this success on the graduation rate alone. Yes, more students
are getting diplomas put into their hands. Great! However, one must stop to ask
this most important question: What is the value of a Duval County Public
Schools education?

In 2012-2013, the
first year Vitti arrived, we had 38 D and F schools. One might consider it only
fair to mention his transition into the superintendency as the reason for a
double digit increase in D and F schools from the prior year. The problem is
the increase in D and F schools have not stopped. In 2013-2014, there were 54 D
and F schools, another double digit increase. And while only a single digit
increase occurred for this latest school year with new FSA data, there is still
an increasingly sad 59 D and F schools. While 23 D and F schools are no
stranger to the North, the Northwest, and the East parts of Jacksonville, we
have now seen alarming increases of D and F schools in other areas of town in the
past two years. Arlington has 9 D and F schools. Southside and Mandarin areas
have 5 D and F schools. The west side has a whopping 22 D and F schools. How
far does failure spread before the Times-Union gets a clue and stops the
madness misleading the public?

Pursuing this
further, while we hear about the old “apples to oranges comparison”
as an excuse for why our students struggle to read on grade level, I’ll sure
take the 2004-2005 school year days where we had 16 D and F schools. And yes
that’s still too many but better than 59. This community deserves to see a
solid plan for how Dr. Vitti and his team of chiefs and assistant
superintendents plan to improve the academic success of our students. This is
the large elephant in the room that no one has addressed.

How offensive I find
it that the Times-Union suggests that black students have an improved education
because of an increase in the graduation rate.

Again, what’s the
quality of a DCPS education? Is it determined by the fact that only 35% of
black students are reading on grade level, 18 percentage points lower than the
district’s 53% reading proficiency? We have great teachers and administrators
in our schools who work tirelessly to educate every child. They do so under the
micromanagement of the district’s leadership. Principals have little control
over their budgets. Some principals even complain about having to hire who the
district tells them they can hire while being held accountable for the
district’s decisions.

Past School Board
members have never been afraid to hold accountable district level
administrators. What is going on with this current Board and their lack of
questioning the Superintendent? We have too many schools missing the mark to
believe everything is peaches and cream. Questioning the Superintendent, when
appropriate, is a part of being an effective Board member. Supporting the
Superintendent, when appropriate, is also a part of being an effective Board

I know it is
re-election time but our children cannot afford to come second to political
agendas. Remember this… Graduation rates cannot be the sole determinant for
progress. Especially with… The number of D and F schools Arlington, 9
North/Northwest/East, 23 West, 22 South/Mandarin, 5

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