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Officials React To Open Enrollment Postponement

Rhema Thompson

Yesterday, Duval Schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti announced that he would indefinitely put on hold his proposal to open the school selection process to all students across the district.

Vitti proposed the open enrollment idea earlier this month as a way to keep more students and families in the district, but after hearing feedback from parents and community leaders, he changed course.

This morning we’re discussing the decision to put off open enrollment in Duval Schools as we take a closer look at some of the deeper issues surrounding public education on the First Coast.

Duval County School Board member Paula Wright and Trey Csar, president of the Jacksonville Public Education Fund joined Melissa Ross in studio, and Florida State Rep. Mia Jones joined her via telephone from Tallahassee to discuss these issues.

Wright her opposition to the open enrollment proposal was based on what she believed would be a result of the plan: school closures.

"A community is about schools, and schools are about a community," she said. "And if you do not have a thriving school within a community, that community dies."

"We have a responsibility as a board beyond the walls of our schools to understand and take notice to how our decisions impact the greater good," Wright said.

Rep. Jones said the reason she stepped in with a position on the issue was that many of the schools she said would've been negatively affected by open enrollment are in her district.

"I raised with him my concern that we have a responsibility to make sure that we are providing quality education, but at the same time, that we don't create a false sense that you're are creating a true opportunity for true open enrollment when we know that the schools that are 'A' schools are at capacity," Jones said of her discussions with Superintendent Vitti.

"I do not believe the community had been property educated and informed about what the plans were, and any if-then scenarios on what they could expect," she said.

When the plan was first proposed, the Jacksonville Public Education fund issued a statement of qualified support, saying there were still some issues that would need to be worked on if and when the plan was approved.

Trey Csar said part of JPEF's analysis was that the plan would need to be subjected to a public input process before going into place, a point he believes officials were informed by in the decision to postpone.

"Open enrollment is and never was a silver bullet to fixing all of our problems," Csar said.

Reacting to callers who expressed disappointment with the decision to postpone the plan, Paula Wright said she hopes the community will join together in an effort to ensure quality schools exist in every community across the city.

"Join with us, so that we can make every school in each neighborhood a qualified, capable school, that you will be proud to send your child," she said.

You can follow Melissa Ross on Twitter @MelissainJax.

Melissa Ross joined WJCT in 2009 with 20 years of experience in broadcasting, including stints in Cincinnati, Chicago, Orlando and Jacksonville. During her career as a television and radio news anchor and reporter, Melissa has won four regional Emmys for news and feature reporting.