Superintendent Lays Out Plan To Make Duval A Safer, Financially Solvent ‘A’ District

Aug 9, 2018

New Duval County Superintendent Diana Greene presented the district’s top three priorities at this week’s board meeting, along with strategies to make them happen.

Her goals: ‘A’ district, safer and more secure schools and financial solvency.

‘A’ Rating

Duval County is 11 points from an A grade. It’s sat at a B four years in a row. Greene focused  much of her presentation on Duval’s lowest performing schools making consecutive D or F grades. Those schools are called “turnaround” schools.

She said they’re getting additional oversight and support.

A data point that sticks out to her is a fifth of teachers in those schools are brand new, having one year of teaching experience or less.

Those with three years of experience or less make up nearly 40 percent of turnaround teachers.

“That’s a large number of teachers that don’t have that bag of strategies to go to, not because they’re not good teachers, they’re just new,” Greene said.

Several schools in danger of having to be managed by an external company or closed by the state if they don’t make a ‘C’ grade will share a “super principal” to help them.

Additional positions will be added solely to support new teachers in turnaround schools paid for by state grant money. The money will also pay for new supplemental curricula.  

But turnaround schools aren’t the only ones needing improvement Greene said.

“If you look at our data a third of our elementary schools dropped a letter grade,” she said.

In order to achieve an A grade she said high performing schools have to sustain their grades. She’s challenged principals and district employees to set aggressive goals.

Safety and Security

Greene said she’s touring high schools asking principals where schools are weakest in security.

That information will inform a plan to strengthen school safety. Greene didn’t address safety assistants during her presentation.

Duval is hiring what it is calling safety assistants to comply with a state mandate to either staff all schools with sworn officers or trained guards. The district can’t afford sworn officers in elementary schools so it’s hiring armed guards - called safety assistants - trained by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.

As our partner News4Jax reported, the district hasn’t been able to train enough assistants over the summer so JSO will fill in the gap with its officers. The district is planning to present a school security update a school board workshop next week.

Financial Solvency

The Duval School Board had a rocky road balancing the budget this summer, starting with a $62 million hole resulting in lots of cuts.

“We heard loud and clear that art, music and physical education were areas of concern,” Greene said. “And through being able to use some of our federal dollars for positions that fall under that category as well as those district cuts we were able to put back $2 million worth of those positions back into the budget.”

She said she’ll be meeting with the finance department every six weeks. And they’re creating  a online financial dashboard.

“Our budget will be very transparent not only to the board but also to the community,” she said.

The board also showed a video the district created explaining how school funding works:

Reporter Lindsey Kilbride can be reached at lkilbride@wjct.org, 904-358-6359 or on Twitter at @lindskilbride.