Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Mayoral Candidates Say City Needs Bigger Role in Schools; Forming a Partnership, Listening to Community Are Mentioned

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Mayoral Candidates Say City Needs Bigger Role in Schools; Forming a Partnership, Listening to Community Are Mentioned

Article excerpt

Byline: DAVID HUNT

Four of Jacksonville's mayoral candidates agreed Tuesday that City Hall should be taking a bigger role in education - with one candidate suggesting the city charter be changed to allow some hands-on control.

Democrats Alvin Brown and Warren Lee and Republicans Rick Mullaney and Audrey Moran fielded about two hours worth of questions Tuesday as each sought the Times-Union editorial board's endorsement in the upcoming election.

Republican Mike Hogan and Steve Irvine, who has no party affiliation, declined invitations to the meeting.

Among the questions about jobs and city finance, the candidates were asked how they would help the four most struggling public schools in Duval County. Andrew Jackson, Raines and Ribault high schools, along with North Shore K-8, are on the verge of closing, turning into charter schools or taking on outside management if they do not show improvement in this year's Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.

Lee suggested a charter revision to give the mayor's office more oversight but said there's a bright side to the schools' status.

"We can't go anywhere but up," he said as he explained that failing schools are bad for workforce development.

Brown said he disagreed with changing the charter. He said a mayor should not overstep an elected School Board.

Brown suggested the mayor partner with the school system to bring in retired teachers for tutoring. He said the mayor should meet quarterly with school officials and parents to gather ideas as to how City Hall can help.

"Education is a great equalizer," Brown said. "When you empower young people intellectually, they can compete academically and achieve economically."

Mullaney said the four troubled schools are the perfect backdrop for mayoral involvement. With the community wondering about a solution, he said City Hall has a responsibility to work with state Education Commissioner Eric Smith. …

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