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Duval School Board Members Looking To Dump Programs Not Serving Students

Lindsey Kilbride

Duval School board members are preparing to weed out district-funded programs that are not serving students as intended.

Of 37 programs and organizations scrutinized, 14 received a score of questionable. One was rated unacceptable and 22 were rated as worth funding.

Board member Scott Shine said the report could help the district reprioritize funding.

“What we found, there’s about $40 million in programs today that might not be giving us a good return, may not be helping children the way we want," Shine said.

He said that’s especially important in light of a state bill that could significantly cut the district’s capital funding.  

“This says we might be able to find the money internally,” he said.

Some initiatives rated questionable include alternative to out of school suspension centers, Teach For America, and reading and math coaches and interventionists. Coaches mostly work with teachers, while interventionists tend to workwith small groups of students.

Board Chair Paula Wright said she’s uncomfortable with cutting reading coaches and interventionists purely based on this study.

“Literacy is our challenge,” she said. “If we are going to have major questions about those particular roles then we need to understand why.”

The rubric graded several areas including a program’s cost-to-benefit ratio, if outcomes demonstrate effectiveness and if they’re absolutely necessary in the district.

But Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said the rubric doesn’t paint a complete picture.

“I feel like the rubric may not reflect absolute value of some programs,” Vitti said.

Vitti is proposing converting many coach and interventionist positions to full-time teaching positions instead. Board member Lori Hershey expressed her concerns during the discussion about cutting reading coaches.

“If we get rid of those then what do we replace them with?” Hershey said. “We need to be certain that when we look at abandoning different programs that it’s going to be effective for students.”

Wright said she wasn’t happy to find out the district is funding some programs she’s never heard of, including the Dynamic Education Foundation that helps student athletes get to college. The district pays $70,000 a year for it and the review determined it was worth funding.

“Now, that was not a good feeling,” Wright said. “I think that’s one of the concerns I have had for a few years is that we’re not shared information in a timely manner.”

She said since it was under $75,000, the board doesn’t have to approve its funding — it’s at the discretion of Vitti. However, board members reduced that amount to $50,000 Friday for 90 days while the legislature considers sharing capital funding with charter schools.

Board members haven’t made any decisions about what programs will be dropped. The board is expected to pick up this conversation at the next budget meeting, which hasn’t been scheduled.

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

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.