DCPS Strategic Plan almost mirrors ONE by ONE Community Agreement

DCPS Strategic Plan almost mirrors  ONE by ONE Community Agreement

Dr. Nikolai Vitti and Marsha Oliver

Three out of four priorities directly reflected

Following the Feb. 21st release of the Duval County School Board’s Strategic Plan draft – which almost directly reflects the priorities of the ONE by ONE Community Agreement – the public was invited to attend any of three community meetings to review the Board’s plan, provide feedback and ask questions.

Fletcher High School was the first venue, where approximately 100 were in attendance to hear what Duval County School Superintendent Dr. Nikolai P. Vitti had to say about the Strategic Plan. The crowd was a little smaller at the subsequent meeting at Riverside’s Lee High School while the final meeting at Andrew Jackson High School counted 230 in attendance.
The numbers look small for such an important issue, but when you consider that less than 200 members of the community came together for the Jacksonville Public Education Fund’s ONE by ONE Community Agreement Convention in early January, these subsequent meetings indicate that the interest – and the passion – is still there.

Attended by teachers, parents and interested community members, the town hall meetings provided an opportunity for tough questions to be asked. At the Lee High School meeting, parents expressed concerns about classroom discipline and disruptive students, stating that teachers don’t feel they have the support of administrators to address the disruption.
“I believe we’ve gone too far too fast with inclusion,” responded Dr. Vitti. “While we are trying to reduce suspensions, we do have to create a progressive discipline plan and a code of conduct, and embrace technology to communicate and document problems. We need to change the culture.”

Comments from audience members who identified themselves as a member of the Substance Abuse Coalition, an in-school suspension teacher, a district coordinator for the Farm to School Program, and a district counselor had common ground: identify the root cause of the disruption (that is, whether it stems from health or nutrition issues, substance abuse, lack of self-confidence or parental support, etc.), work with teachers to develop an Individual Education Plan for the child, and use appropriate intervention according to the diagnosis.
“The district will be looking into wellness plans, and develop a menu of options for teachers to use and to suggest to parents [for suspected substance abuse],” Vitti said. “Diagnoses and intervention needs to begin at the kindergarten level in order to address disruption.”

Dr. Vitti also noted that district funds have to follow at-risk students, providing extra wrap-around services for those below grade level. While core academic subjects (reading, math, science and writing) are the foundation of learning, he stated that electives in arts, music and athletics help to build a child’s self-confidence so he or she can then tackle the harder core subjects.

“If I could change one thing in Public Education, it would be to build schools that don’t treat students like widgets in a factory on a conveyer belt,” he shared with the audience. “Schools are built for academics and if you [the student] don’t get it, you’re left behind and pushed aside.”
During the three community meetings at which he presented the plan, Vitti stressed a focus on the first priority: Educate the Whole Child. The Board’s Strategic Plan wants to facilitate and align effective wrap-around services for students based on needs, similar to the ONE by ONE Community Agreement which looks for individualized instruction to meet unique needs of each child.

Additionally, the Strategic Plan indicates addressing the needs of all students with multiple opportunities for enrichment compared to the Community Agreement priority of ensuring that students have educational opportunities in art, music, counseling and vocational education. The last action item in the Board’s Strategic Plan for “developing the whole child” was to encourage positive behavior, respect toward others and to ensure safe environments throughout the school district versus ONE by ONE’s desire to prepare students for a global world as a moral obligation.

The one goal out of four that was not totally reflected by the School Board’s Strategic Plan was that of policy and political reform. ONE by ONE’s desire is for autonomy, flexibility and local control; transparency; use of research and evidence-based practices, and highly qualified, responsive and informed elected officials. Alternatively, the Strategic Plan’s fourth goal was the equitable and efficient use of resources to ensure that the use of district funds is transparent, strategic and aligned, to distribute district-wide programs and resources in an equitable manner, and to deploy information technology that supports the academic needs of all students, teachers and district staff.

To view and compare the other goals of both the DCPS Board and the Jacksonville Public Education Fund’s ONE by ONE Community Agreement, visit jaxpef.org/news.
To show support for the priorities of ONE by ONE, community members are urged to ratify the Community Agreement. The goal for ratification of ONE by ONE’s petition was 2,000 signatures; as of March 20, the number was 2,068. You can still ratify online at www.jaxpef.org. On Saturday, May 4, an event will be held to move the conversation into an action plan.
By Kate A. Hallock
Resident Community News

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