Businesses urged to help improve local schools
by Michele Newbern Gillis
City leaders challenged business leaders to get involved in improving local school during the Call to Action Breakfast Wednesday at the Schultz Center for Teaching and Leadership.
The breakfast was hosted by City Council president Matt Carlucci and School Board chair Jimmie Johnson, who urged the business community to help “challenged schools” in Duval County.
Carlucci told the 300 people attending that there are several ways they can get involved, including Project Reach and the Contributing to High Achievement Made in Public Schools project (CHAMPS), which are initiatives that need volunteers to participate in a door-to-door campaign to connect with students and increase parental involvement.
“I went door-to-door with Jimmie Johnson,” said Carlucci. “I didn’t know what to expect or even if I could make a difference. But, we were invited in and heard the parent’s concerns. I felt like I had made a difference.”
Also, organizations can partner with Project Reach to provide volunteers for tutoring, mentoring, truancy, motivational speaking and office and staff support.
Another way the business community can help is by offering financial support.
Creating Opportunities that Result in Excellence (CORE) is a financial initiative spearheaded by Terrie Brady, president of the Duval Teachers United, to give teachers financial incentives to transfer to challenged schools where they are needed.
“We should all care about the future of the children and where they are going,” said Brady. “All children can learn.”
CORE, a collaborative venture between Duval County Schools, DTU and business partners will allow teachers in targeted schools to earn monetary incentives to improve student achievement. Some teachers could be awarded up to $2,500 annually based on the performance of their school.
“A sign of a challenged school is that many of the teachers are inexperienced, first-year teachers who are ill-prepared to handle the challenge of teaching children who are unready to learn,” said Johnson. “Some will not finish the year and as many as half will leave the school after one year.”
Johnson explained that challenged schools are those that have received a letter grade of “D” or below from the Florida Department of Education. Other characteristics included parents missing partners, excessive absences, high rate of expulsions and suspensions and transfers of students from school to school within the same region. Johnson added that many of the challenged schools are in Northwest Jacksonville.