Westside Schools Set for New Year; Administrators Expect 'Relatively Quiet Opening'
Strickland, Sandy, The Florida Times Union
Byline: SANDY STRICKLAND
New faces, new principals and no corporal punishment are among the changes in store for Westside students as they begin a new school year Monday.
An estimated 129,400 children are scheduled to report to Duval County's 105 elementary, 26 middle, 17 senior high, three exceptional education, two academies of technology and five special schools.
Overall, it will be a "relatively quiet opening" with no major issues, said Brenda English, spokeswoman for Duval's public school system.
English said teachers and administrators are "psyched" about their return because Duval recently earned its best grades since Florida began issuing them in 1999. Duval had a record number of A's and no F's for the first time since 2001. The grades are based largely on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test that students in grades 3-10 took this spring.
For instance, Forrest and Lee high schools went to a C from a D and Paxon Middle from an F to a D, while Gregory Drive, Reynolds Lane and Oak Hill elementary schools improved to an A.
Loraine Nelson, Oak Hill's principal, said the 500-student school is celebrating its first A. She said teachers have been working with students to improve their math skills.
Outside the classroom, there's been another improvement, as Oak Hill's parking lot was repaved, leading to a monthlong period when visitors had to take a detour to reach the school. At least one person made a wrong turn because of the detour and found himself at a nearby cemetery, Nelson said. Come Monday, she looks forward to opening the gates and letting everyone in through the front entry.
"We've been trying to get the parking lot done for 10 years, and we're just excited that it's happened," she said.
Other changes include the school board's decision to eliminate corporal punishment. In addition, there are new principals at 10 schools. They are Jack Shanklin at West Riverside Elementary, Marie Kite at Whitehouse Elementary, Jeanne Ballentine at J.E.B. Stuart Middle, Jennifer Brown at Ortega Elementary, Fred Christmann at Lackawanna Alternative Center, Lawrence Dennis at Stilwell Middle, Denise Hall at Lee High, Kimberly Harrison at Timucuan Elementary, Tarsha Mitchell at Hyde Park Elementary and Cynthia Thompson at Enterprise Learning Academy. …