The changing lanes of public education

Duval County’s public education system is famous for big ideas and status quo, often leading to stagnation and conflict. Does this benefit our children?  

By Charles Griggs

“For me, education means to inspire people to live more abundantly, to learn to begin with life as they find it and make it better.” – Carter G. Woodson

Given the state of Duval County’s education system, it seems like the only thing consistent is the changing lanes that accompanies uncertainty. Every four or five years the Jacksonville community is introduced to some sort of potential transition that will improve education for the better. Once the shine wears off, students are left with the same disparities that seem to motivate the birth of another great idea.

The history of changing lanes in the Duval County Public School system goes back as far as I can remember. The only foundational change that has been maintained in the past four and half decades is integration and the buildings that came with it.

Over the years we’ve been introduced to curriculums Direct Instruction, Florida Standards, and now the controversial Common Core.

We’ve endured the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, better known as the dreaded FCAT. The nightmare to follow would be known as the Florida Standards Assessment. Something no one really knows how to score or if the results really mean anything at all.

In 2015, there were boundary change proposals that would remedy the imbalance of underutilized schools. One small whiff of the potential consolidation of a few schools and people went haywire.

We’ve been interrupted by district superintendents with war rooms and silver bullets that promised progress. Yet, no one has been able to claim victory in turning around a system that consistently under performs for its clients…our children.

Well, here we go again.

Raines High alum Earl Kitchings Jr. rallies alumni and friends in support of preserving the school’s traditions, history and legacy.

Duval County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene, leadership team and consultants have been on a listening tour to get input on potential changes to the face of the district. A part of $3 billion needs assessment for facilities replacement, potential restructuring would take place as well. Out of this recent round of maybes, a floating proposal to build new inner-city high schools and combine them with surrounding middle schools has emerged.

The potential of Raines and Ribault morphing from their current presentation is sacrilegious and has definitely disturbed the forces in the Vikings & Trojan universe.  

Again, there’s nothing new to see here. The District has been down this road before with the exploration of radical change. Even former Superintendent Nikolai Vitti had visions of $1 billion to replace and repair schools. And it is always a new leader’s job to make proposals that paint a forward vision and generate dialogue.

So where do the legacy believers go from here?

Let’s be clear, there is nothing wrong with speaking out on traditions that you love. I get the emotional connections to schools, neighborhoods and the pride that comes with it. Heck, I still bleed the black and gold of Englewood High (Go Rams!). But it’s time to take a cold hard look at the things that can be accomplished when everyone is working together for change. The reason we even get these rotating concoctions of curriculums and budgets is because the voices of the community aren’t heard until after the people are prepared to object to whatever is deem a threat to, “the way it used to be.”

Here’s a thought. Why don’t we not wait until someone else comes up with an idea to shoot it down. How about the people prepared to stand in line to protect the legacies of educational institutions come up with ideas that will best benefit the children, advocate for them, then show up for implementation.

Everyone knows it is easier to criticize than it is to collaborate. During these discussions on the future Duval County Public Schools, it would be more helpful to collaborate and build something everyone believes in.

Otherwise, the changing lanes of Duval County public education will never benefit our children. Visit blackoffee.com, email speaktous@8wgroup.com, and follow me on twitter @CharlesLGriggs

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