Duval School Board Agrees On Potential Operator For 3 Low-Performing Schools

Jan 16, 2018

An external operator could take over three low-performing public schools in Duval County in the fall, if they don’t make at least C grades this school year.

The school board Tuesday agreed on a company with a proven track record in Jacksonville. This comes after a new state law, called HB 7069, gives districts a shorter list of options to improve D and F schools.

Duval Schools Superintendent Patricia Willis is recommending hiring Educational Directions to operate Lake Forest Elementary along with Matthew Gilbert and Northwestern middle schools for up to three years if those schools don’t make C’s for the current school year. Three companies submitted proposals.

Credit Duval County Public Schools

RELATED: 3 Duval Schools Could Be Managed By External Operators Next Year

“I looked at the work that they’ve done previously in turnaround and they've done great work,” Willis said.

Educational Directions has managed several schools in Florida including Duval’s Northshore K-8, helping bring it from a D in 2010 to a B the next year. A district analysis shows the company’s strength is working in high-poverty schools to bring their grades up to a C or higher.    

All of the five middle schools the company has operated improved in science and social students. District concerns about Educational Directions included inconsistent improvement in English and math.

Credit Duval County Public Schools

The operator is proposing to charge between $325,000 and $350,000 per school for the first year, and $100,000 less the second year.

But Willis said she hopes the schools make C’s by the end of the school year without outside help because they’re all fewer than five percentage points away.

“And then we don’t have to deal with the organizations as an external organization, but maybe just supporting us in academic management or some support in those schools in professional development,” Willis said.

Credit Duval County Public Schools

The school board informally agreed at Tuesday’s workshop to using Educational Directions, and writing the contracts in such a way that if the schools made C’s, they’d just use the company as support, instead of it controlling curriculum and teacher placement.

The outside takeover is one of three options under a new state education law that gives districts less time and fewer choices to improve schools before intervening. The district could also have chosen to close the schools or turn them into privately managed charters.

If the district were to choose the charter option, the school board would be required to vote on a contract with a charter school company at its February board meeting. If the schools were to make C’s the district would still be required to follow through with a 3-5 year charter contract.

The two other external operators to submit proposals were Learning Science International and Turnaround Solutions.

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