Duval Shifting Literacy Focus To Younger Kids; School Board To Take More Public Comment

Jul 8, 2015

Reading interventionists will be assigned to 28 elementary schools that feed into the county's lowest performing high schools.
Credit Duval County Schools

The Duval County School Board has approved a grant to pay teachers who help with literacy.

Also at its Tuesday night meeting, the board decided it’s open to hearing public comments at more of its meetings.

The grant of just over $2 million is from Quality Education for All and administered through the Jacksonville Public Education Fund. Quality Education for All is a fund of private money used to improve public schools. The grant will be used to pay reading interventionists, teachers who work in small groups with kids who are behind in literacy.

Superintendent Nikolai Vitti says the interventionists will work with children in kindergarten, first and second grade. Over the last several years they were assigned to work with older children.

“When you look at literacy development, it actually makes better sense to invest in kindergarten, first and second grade intervention because children are more likely to catch up and the gap is narrower,” Vitti said.

The instructors will work in 28 elementary schools that are historically among the county’s lowest performing. They will be an addition to interventionists who are already serving children in third, fourth and fifth grade at those schools.

But at Tuesday’s meeting, School Board Member Connie Hall described using interventionists as a “quick fix.”

She said, “So I would hope in the future, as we pursue additional grant dollars, that we really look at professional development or training that’s going to enhance the craft of teaching.”

On Tuesday, the School Board also voted to allow public comment at its committee meetings, in addition to meetings of the full board. But an amendment that would extend public comment to School Board workshops failed to pass. 

And the Duval County School Board voted to up the minimum qualifications of the Hearing-Officer Supervisor position, that’s the person who administers hearings for students who appeal their suspensions or referrals to alternative schools.

 

Qualifications for the job went from three years of related experience, to five. Duval Superintendent Nikolai Vitti says the district is also recommending the person have school-based leadership experience.

 

"Often there is not a thorough review at the hearing office because the individuals that have held the position have not had school-level experience," Vitti said.

 

The school board also voted to modify the Student Progression Plan. The plan details student requirements for grade promotion, and by state law must be updated annually.

 

Among many updates, some eighth grade students will now be able to be dual-enrolled in a college course at Florida State College at Jacksonville or Edward Waters College.

 

And Duval County schools will soon be completely wireless. Eight remaining schools that did not offer a wi-fi connection were approved for the switch. Vitti says, just two years ago, only one Duval public school had wireless internet.

Corrected: A previous version of this story said the grant was from the Jacksonville Public Education Fund. It is administered through the fund but actually comes from Quality Education for All.