Struggling Schools Plan Approved; Management Responsibility Given to Duval Partners Nonprofit

Article excerpt

Byline: Topher Sanders

The state Board of Education has approved Duval County Public Schools' plan to pass managerial responsibility of its four most struggling schools to a district-created nonprofit group if the schools don't improve on state exams.

Tuesday's news came a day after the nonprofit, Duval Partners for Excellent Education, elected its officers and a week after the group lost one of its most respected members.

Superintendent Ed Pratt-Dannals said he was encouraged the state board unanimously approved Duval's plan.

"I feel great," Pratt-Dannals said. "I anticipated with [Education Commissioner Eric Smith's] recommendation that it would be a positive vote. Now it's about moving forward and improving the schools."

The Duval Partners group meets again Monday to discuss its future and to make plans in case it has to manage one or more of the intervene schools: Andrew Jackson, Raines and Ribault high schools and North Shore K-8.

"We're trying to posture ourselves so that when the tests scores come in we'll be ready to move," said John Baker, who was elected as chairman of the group.

Students and school-level Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test scores are expected in the first week of June.

Baker said he only intended to serve as chairman for a few months until the group finds someone else. Marcella Washington was elected as the group's vice chair, Roslyn Phillips was elected treasurer and the Rev. Marvin Zanders was elected secretary.

Duval Partners will meet every Monday, Baker said, and those meetings will be open to the public after a memorandum of understanding is signed between the group and the school district.

The group has had four meetings so far, all closed to the public.

Developing the memorandum of understanding is the next step for Duval Partners and the school system. The School Board will discuss the memorandum today during its workshop. The memorandum will only outline Duval Partners' role as an advisory group. If the group has to manage one or more of the intervene schools, the district and Duval Partners will develop a contract detailing the nonprofit's responsibilities.

Board members Betty Burney and Paula Wright, who represent the districts containing the four intervene schools, continued to voice their objection to handing Duval Partners the managerial role with the schools.

"It is preposterous that we sit as a board and we're talking about a group of individuals to take control of four of our critically performing schools and don't know what they're supposed to do," Burney said. …