Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Duval County Public schools continuity problems or are we making things a lot more difficult than we need to?

A friend posted on Facebook: National Make A Difference to Children Month. Duval County Public Schools will never make a difference in any child's life until they realize the value of continuity. To which I jokingly replied, are you about to have your 3rd principal in four years? Her answer, YES!!!

Before I get started talking bout the importance of continuity I wanted to bring up a couple things up. First I think school based leadership is the most important school factor determining success or failure. A good principal can push a school forward where a bad principal can set a school back. Regrettably here in the county over the last few years who one knew not ones ability often determined many promotions to principal. This has led to numerous bullies pretending to be principals running many of our schools and others who rose way past their ability.

Next, the other day at a community meeting Superintendent Vitti said he wasn’t responsible for what happened before him and in a lot of ways he is cleaning up the messes he inherited and no more is this evident than in his 45 principal moves. This means over 30 percent of our schools will have new leadership this year alone and this is on the heels of a hundred other moves over the previous three years. If he feels he needs to clean house, more power to him but he also needs to put in place a system that makes sure we don’t need to clean house in the future. 

At the community meeting I spoke about above many complained about how they had 4 principals in five years and how every time a new principal came in it took them time to get going but worse it always led to staff turnover. They said they usually lose veterans those teachers that know best what they are doing, those with the most experience.

And here comes the real problem, the vast amount of our turnover occurs at our schools that can afford it the least. Principals of the schools on the Northside and Westside where there are high amounts of poverty are more likely to last just a year or two while their Southside and beach counterparts can look forward to long terms. That means every year the schools that need the most stability go through a fair amount of upheaval, this sets kids back. Maybe little Johnny in the suburbs can take it but little Jamal on the north side needs all we can do to help him be successful.

Another friend wrote on Facebook: I have noticed a bunch of overall turnover at Stockton. What is going on? Is this normal? I've only experienced dcps as a parent for two years, but it already doesn't seem right. I grew up in Fernandina where you had the same teachers as your parents. Very off-putting.

It is off-putting and if we want to be successful we need to start getting it right.