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One-by-One Convention Shows Progress, But Work Remains In Duval Schools

Karen Feagins

Organizers of the second annual One-by-One Convention called this weekend's event, which saw about 400 attendees, a huge success. But there's still work to be done, they said."I think the community, on the whole, feels very excited and supportive of the school system," said Trey Csar, president of the Jacksonville Public Education Fund, which put on the event. "But I think there is also an acknowledgement that we're not done yet."

Parents, students and community leaders filled the Prime Osborn Center Saturday to discuss priorities and plans of action for improving Duval Schools.

The annual event is designed to get the community involved in setting common goals for the district and taking measures make them happen.

Last year's convention yielded a set of collective goals which were eventually drafted into the district's 2013-14 strategic plan. Those objectives included educating the "whole child," developing good teachers and leaders, and promotion of parental involvement.

"We had community delegates who agreed to start one or more action teams to try to work on some really key priorities of the community and the school system," Csar said. "So we had groups who signed up to promote the Parent Academy, we had other groups who signed up to work on holding community forums for school board candidates."

This year's turnout nearly doubled that of last year, which drew about 150 people. Among those in attendance were Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown and Duval School's Superintendent Nikolai Vitti, who spoke about the district's plans to expand regular access to laptops or iPads for students in the district in the coming weeks and years.

In an interview with WJCT last April, Vitti said he planned to give every Duval Schools student access to a take-home device by the 2014-15 school year. During his presentation at the convention, Vitti spoke of plans to expand wireless Internet and access to laptops and computers at some of district's most impoverished schools over the next few weeks.

Attendees also discussed the highlights from JPEF’s first ever opinion poll conducted through the University of North Florida last November.

According to the poll, about three-quarters of parents support giving each student regular access to a computer or iPad and two-thirds would support a small property tax to fund the effort.

Csar said recommendations and feedback from this weekend's event will be compiled into a Community Progress Report that will be released over the next couple of months.

You can follow Rhema Thompson on Twitter @RhemaThompson.

Rhema Thompson began her post at WJCT on a very cold day in January 2014 and left WJCT to join the team at The Florida Times Union in December 2014.