Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Duval to File Plan of Action for 3 Schools at Risk of Failing; All 4 Options Will Impact Funding of Teachers', Principals' Retirement

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Duval to File Plan of Action for 3 Schools at Risk of Failing; All 4 Options Will Impact Funding of Teachers', Principals' Retirement

Article excerpt

Byline: Denise Smith Amos

Duval County schools officials have until Friday to make decisions about the future of three of the district's most at-risk schools - Lake Forest Elementary, Matthew Gilbert Middle and Northwestern Middle - should any of those schools fail to earn a C grade on state report cards this summer.

Duval must choose now from among four options for those schools if they get graded a D or F. The district could close them, turn them over to an outside operator, turn them over to a charter school or convert them into a "district-run" charter school.

These schools, which serve 1,324 students, have only the coming testing season to save themselves because they each in the past several years or more failed to make a C grade and because House Bill 7069, which became law in July, shortened the time they have to turn around performance.

Interim Superintendent Patricia Willis told the NAACP's education committee the district is taking extra steps to improve the schools and they all have a chance to remain open as they are. But more help from community partners and from parents is needed to keep up momentum.

"We are trying to ensure that those schools have full support, so that they won't have to face the consequences of not making a C," Willis said.

She said she fears just submitting the plans may touch off school-wide panic or despair in staff and students, with testing season several months away.

"We'd have to work on their culture and climate so they don't feel defeated," she said. "Everyone is working hard in those schools."

Yet she is being realistic with school administrators about what's at stake, she said.

"I told the principals today that if those schools don't make a C, they won't have a school. We'd have to make a decision about their roles," she said.

Hank O. Rogers, a former school board candidate and long-term education advocate, said he is worried about too much pressure on students at those schools. …

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