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Education

$15 Million Performance Incentives Grant Approved By Duval County School Board

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Duval County Public Schools
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The pathway has been cleared in Duval Schools for a new incentives program and a new assistant superintendent.

The board unanimously approved a $15 million grant to pay for district’s new performance incentives program, which offers high performing teachers and principals in 36 challenging schools a significant bump in salary.

The board also approved the promotion of Exceptional Student Education (ESE) head Mason Davis to assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction.

The incentives program, which offers up to $20,000 in bonuses to eligible teachers and principals, is part of the multimillion dollar venture known as Quality Education for All (QEA).

The grant for the incentives will take the largest chunk out of the $37 million pool of QEA funds. The donors who make up the QEA advisory board ultimately aim to raise $50 million towards the district.

One of those donors, Laurie DuBow, made a brief case for the grant before the board’s vote.

“The contract that I am asking you to approve tonight represents the most significant investment in the Quality Education for All Fund,” he said. “We find ourselves at an unprecedented moment of momentum for public education in Duval County.”  

Under the approved contract for the grant, funds would be distributed to the district via check from the Jacksonville Public Education Fund. The district would, then, pay teachers and principals their incentives three times a year — once at the beginning of the year, once at the half-year mark, and once at the end of the year.

About $5 million of the grant will be distributed on an annual basis over the next three years, but the district will also be required to submit several periodic reports updating donors on the program’s progress.

Several members of the school board and the audience took time to praise the QEA initiative and its donors, but a few people expressed a desire for more transparency.

Former School Board candidate Bradford Hall suggested the QEA advisory board hold open meetings. Those meetings are currently held out of the public eye.

“I understand that there is an effort to dispel the rumors that there are no conditions attached to certain funds, but I guess…it’s better to show us than to tell us, and transparency is definitely a solution to that,” he said.

Mason Davis' promotion was also among the night's discussion.

Davis was appointed to assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction by Superintendent Nikolai Vitti last month after Daniela Simic resigned from the position.

The move came under some criticism from parents in light of a recent state department investigation which found the district’s ESE department violated state and federal special education laws.

But Tuesday, several members of the public spoke in support of Davis’ appointment.

“Mason Davis has the tools and skills to improve schools,” said former Robert E. Lee High School teacher Frank Ancayan. “But most importantly, his heart, soul and passion is in this community.”

Vitti said he selected Davis for his ability to problem-solve and collaborate at the school- and district-level.

“He was also very good at analyzing data,” Vitti said.

With the new state standards and assessment quickly approaching, the position will come with a whole new set of challenges next year.

“We are going to get down in the weeds with the kids and with the teachers and help them learn these new standards and try the best we can to support them and listen to their needs and provide them with  what they need so we can increase student achievement,” Davis said.

His new position goes into effect this week. The new school year begins Aug. 18.

You can follow Rhema Thompson on Twitter @RhemaThompson.