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Congresswoman Brown Visits Duval School Board Workshop; Demands 'Real, Meaningful Community Input'

Lindsey Kilbride

Duval School Superintendent Nikolai Vitti provided a timeline and more information about potential school boundary changes at a workshop, Tuesday.

The changes would affect more than 20 schools, turning many of them into magnets, starting the 2016-2017 school year.

Jacksonville Democratic Congresswoman Corrine Brown stopped by the workshop to give her two cents.


Vitti recommended changes for the district's underutilized schools. He says while many public schools in the Urban Core have empty desks, charter schools are setting up in more populated areas and taking some high-performing students.

He says the changes would address low-performance in schools, and the low residential growth, which he says leads to an inefficient use of funds and facilities.

Brown represents an area of Jacksonville that would be affected by the boundary changes. She says her constituents feel like the boundary decisions have already been made without concern for what they think.

“First of all, I want real, meaningful community input, and I want real research and recommendations," Brown said. "I don’t want you to be talking down to us saying ‘this is what we’re doing.’ Let’s do some studies. Let’s do the best practice. What works in other communities?”

She says Duval already has great programs, and dollars should be used to expand and "beef them up." Brown also says if these changes are made without the community on board, there will be a lawsuit.

However, Vitti is calling for working groups that would represent affected schools. The groups would engage the community and make recommendations to the school board. Each one would consist of up to eight members ranging from teachers and students, to local business owners and community members.

But in a timeline presented Tuesday, the groups have just a 15-day period to meet.

The board discussed taking a slower approach and allowing more time to educate and engage the community. And some members including Connie Hall and Paula Wright suggested holding off on changes for an additional year.

The board will continue discussion at a committee meeting September 15.

Lindsey Kilbride was WJCT's special projects producer until Aug. 28, 2020. She reported, hosted and produced podcasts like Odd Ball, for which she was honored with a statewide award from the Associated Press, as well as What It's Like. She also produced VOIDCAST, hosted by Void magazine's Matt Shaw, and the ADAPT podcast, hosted by WJCT's Brendan Rivers.