Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

In Reply; Concerns about Duval Schools Are Real

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

In Reply; Concerns about Duval Schools Are Real

Article excerpt

Byline: Jim Johnson

This letter is in response to unfounded assertions of a group of local pastors regarding the public schools.

In a Times-Union opinion column, local senior pastors Torin T. Dailey, Eugene W. Diamond, John Guns, Rudolph McKissick Jr., John Allen Newman, Jeffrey K. Rumlin and Leofric Thomas Sr. opined the NAACP and other African-American leaders are being divisive in challenging Superintendent Nikolai Vitti to provide equity to every child.

Their assertions are unwarranted, considering most of the schools neighboring their churches are graded a D or an F.

These pastors should stand with their neighbors as we demand more accountability from the system charged with educating God's greatest gift to the world - our children.

As a longtime resident of Northwest Jacksonville, I support our local schools and the efforts that have been made thus far - but I also understand the status quo is simply not enough.

Over the past four years, the community has exercised great restraint and patience in allowing Vitti time to lead turnaround efforts.

But no turnaround has taken place.

Instead, we have well over 60 schools in danger of state intervention because of continued low performance.

Moreover, Duval County Public Schools leads one of the state's seven large school districts with 36 percent of its schools earning a D or F accountability grade. This is double the percentage of D and F schools in Miami-Dade County Public Schools (the state's largest district).

Even more troubling is the pastors' dismissal of the reading epidemic in our community. According to the Florida Department of Education, about 70 percent of all African-American fourth-grade students in Duval County are not reading on grade level.

The data show this district is in the emergency room headed to intensive care.

The pastors believe the district is being "delivered from the valley," citing improved graduation rates. …

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