Board Delays Intervene Decision; MEETING THURSDAY It Will Consider Whether to Hand over Struggling Schools to Management Organization

Article excerpt

Byline: Topher Sanders

Against the impassioned entreaties of the two Duval County School Board members representing Jacksonville's most struggling schools, the School Board is strongly considering turning these "intervene" schools over to a board-created management organization.

The board, which was originally scheduled to act on the schools at a special meeting Tuesday, will now meet at 3 p.m. Thursday to vote - after a public hearing - on whether to hand at least partial control of Andrew Jackson, Raines and Ribault high schools and North Shore K-8 over to the newly formed Duval Partners for Excellent Education.

That hand-off would only need to occur if the schools don't show the required improvement on this year's Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.

State law requires the School Board to choose among three options: turning the schools over to a management organization, turning them into charter schools or closing them.

Board members Betty Burney and Paula Wright, who represent the communities where the four schools reside, were squarely against Superintendent Ed Pratt-Dannals' recommendation Tuesday to go with the management organization option with Duval Partners as the selected entity.

"These are the exact same children whose parents we impacted when we desegregated - bused them all over - the same ones who when the magnet schools came [we] moved them out of their schools," Burney said during a morning workshop. "Now we're getting ready to do it again."

The School Board created Duval Partners, but Burney and Wright saw the group's function as purely advisory and were surprised Tuesday that the superintendent equated the nonprofit to a management organization.

The state has twice rejected district plans for the schools. The last time, it rejected the plan that would have given Duval Partners an advisory role.

The district's new plan would give Duval Partners power to hire a new principal or approve the current one and support the principal in hiring and replacing teachers. It would also have responsibility for bringing in new teachers.

Pratt-Dannals said he expects Duval Partners to hire staff to help it execute its responsibilities.

John Baker, executive chairman of Patriot Transportation, is the interim chairman of the new nonprofit.

The School Board decided last week to pursue the option of closing each school and reopening them immediately as two smaller schools in their original buildings. The superintendent got the idea to close and reopen the schools from a plan submitted by Broward County for one of its intervene schools.

The plan was attractive because it would have effectively allowed the schools to start over. …