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3 Duval Schools Could Be Managed By External Operators Next Year

Lindsey Kilbride
Duval County Superintendent Patricia Willis (left) and School Board Chair Paula Wright.

Next school year, three low-performing Duval County public schools willbe managed by external operators, if they don’t make C grades this school year. Superintendent Patricia Willis had to give her decision to the state by Wednesday.


The schools: Lake Forest Elementary along with Northwestern and Matthew Gilbert middles, have had a history of nearly all D’s and F’s over the last six years.


“An external operator is another organization that has the leadership skills and the content-oriented personnel and resources to come in and run a school,” said School Board Chair Paula Wright at a board workshop last week.


A state law change requires school districts to choose among three “turnaround” options for schools that have received three consecutive grades below a C.


The state’s options included closing the schools and reassigning the students to other schools, closing the schools and reopening them as charter schools, or what the district chose: contracting with an outside entity to operate the schools. That option could also include turning the schools into a district-managed charter school. The district hasn’t specified which it’s going with for the schools.


Charter schools are public, but privately managed. A district-managed charter school means all its instructional personnel are not employees of the school district, but are employees of an independent governing board composed of members who did not participate in the review or approval of the charter.

Credit Duval County Public Schools

The three schools are all fewer than five percentage points from a C. Northwestern is one percentage point from a C. It has made three F’s and three D’s over the last six years, but it’s also improved 11 percentage points over the last three years.

A recently-passed state law, called House Bill 7069, gives low-performing schools fewer improvement options and less time to turn their grades around.


Under last year’s rules, the district would have been able to choose options for the schools like a “hybrid plan” or a district-managed improvement plan, which could mean the district might add additional support to a school or change around its leadership.  


Schools earning two consecutive D’s or and an F used to have a year to plan what are called “turnaround” interventions, but under the new law the district has to immediately implement an intervention.


Although school grades aren’t expected to come out until summer, the district had to choose plans for the three schools this month. The board will have to vote on a contract with an outside management company by Jan. 31.


Credit Duval County Public Schools
Attendees at community meetings at the school voted for the outside operator option Duval selected.

Community Assessment Teams made up of educators, parents and business leaders, also had input in the recommendations to the state after accessing the schools’ performances and talking with the communities


Surveys were conducted at two community meetings and 87 percent of attendees chose the option Willis submitted to the state.


The district is continuing to hold community meetings at these schools.


"While our focus continues to be in providing extensive resources to these schools to improve outcomes for students, we also knew it was critical to invite community input on such a crucial decision for these school communities,” Willis said.


  • Feburary 1, 2018 – Lake Forest Elementary School
  • April 5, 2018 – Northwestern Middle School
  • June 2018 date TBA – Matthew Gilbert Middle school

At the same time, Duval has five other schools — Arlington Heights Elementary, George Washington Carver Elementary, Gregory Drive Elementary, Ramona Elementary and Arlington Middle School — that have made D’s and F’s and must make a C by the end of the 2018-2019 school year.

School grades are made up of several components, including standardized test scores, graduation rate and improvement.

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.