District 5 School Board Candidates Talk Priorities For Duval Schools At Forum

Aug 9, 2016

Bradford Hall, Warren Jones, Brenda Jordan and Hank Rogers are running for the District 5 Duval County School Board seat being vacated by Connie Hall.

The four faced off Monday night at a forum hosted by the Jacksonville Public Education Fund, WJCT and 20 other partners making up the Duval County School Board Elections Coalition at Edward Waters College.

ABOUT THE CANDIDATES

  • Bradford Hall is a fourth-generation Duval native who considers himself an education advocate and recently served on an advisory group about district boundary changes.
  • Warren Jones is a former City Council member and believes he could fill a need on the school board because of his experience and background.
  • Brenda Jordan is a 16-year Duval County teacher. She said as a  veteran teacher she knows the ins and outs of a teacher and has been researching the operational side.
  • Hank Rogers worked for 10 years in the Florida House of Representatives fighting for children’s issues and now he volunteers as a guardian ad litem.

The first question of the night for the candidates asked for the biggest specific issue facing Duval County Public Schools.

Jones said it’s a gap between minority and non-minority students. He emphasized the importance of reading coaches in elementary schools. He said dollars need to be focused on low-performing schools.  

Jordan said inconsistent curriculum and a lack of cultural diversity are her biggest concerns. 

“Kids relate to materials in which looks and acts and thinks like them,” she said.

Rogers said an increasing number of charter schools is his biggest issue because they take dollars from traditional neighborhood schools and cut away at enrollment. He said the district needs to do a better job recruiting students.

Hall said the biggest issue is the district's performance in literacy. He said he’d look into getting a curriculum instruction department focused on research and writing, while improving teacher development.

Hall left the forum early due to a family emergency, he said.

The candidates differed on the issue of school choice. They were asked about funding for magnets and a bill allowing statewide open enrollment set to begin in 2017. 

Jones said he believes the open-enrollment law is well-intended but can create problems. He’s also concerned about student athletes’ using open enrollment to transfer to specific teams.

Rogers said also doesn’t support the new open-enrollment law because it will be difficult for districts to manage budgets if there’s a large increase or decrease of students from other counties. He also said Duval should better market its existing magnet programs while adding more vocational programs into traditional neighborhood schools.

Jordan, on the other hand, said school choice is excellent. She believes all Duval schools should be magnet schools because students are leaving for charters when there aren’t enough speciality programs.

Candidates were also asked how to retain more teachers in Duval’s Title I schools.

Jones said he think the Quality Education for All program offers great incentives for teachers to come to some of Duval’s schools. He said the district needs to provide more incentives and training for those teachers

Jordan said teachers shouldn’t be fired because their students aren’t scoring high enough on assessments. She said they should be given extensions. She said Duval teaches are also moving to other districts like Clay County or charter schools. She said speaking with some of her own colleagues who’ve left because they didn’t feel valued.

“I’ve witnessed seven veteran teachers throwing in the hat, saying ‘that’s it, I’m done’,” she said.

As a strategy she said she’d work with college interns who want a job.

Rogers said teachers need additional support. And Duval should look at what other counties are doing to keep teachers.

“They need to know that they are appreciated,” he said. “They need to know they are applauded for their work each and every day.”

He said morale is low and teachers are leaving because they don’t feel like they’re appreciated. He said incentives aren’t keeping teachers in the district even though they’re necessary.

Full video of the forum can be found on the Jacksonville Public Education Fund’s Facebook page, and candidate questionnaires can be found at Schoolboard2016.org