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- 2014 - November - 10th -
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50 years ago: Duval County public schools to lose accreditation

Compiled by Max Marbut

It was learned that Duval County’s 15 public high schools would be recommended for disaccreditation on Nov. 30 by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

The Florida Committee of the association’s Secondary Commission voted unanimously to remove the schools from the list of accredited schools, said Herman Frick, committee chairman.

He said the basic condition that led to the decision was the county’s inadequate financial support.

The news was delivered in a letter from Frick to Duval County School Superintendent Ish Brant and the five members of the Board of Public Instruction.

Frick’s letter listed several “major problems related to inadequate financial support” that led to the recommendation: Inadequate maintenance procedures; inadequate custodial care of buildings and grounds; inadequate textbooks and other instructional materials; insufficient number of teachers, particularly in elementary and feeder junior high schools; inadequate laboratory equipment, libraries and collections; schools resorting to fund-raising activities that were educationally unsound to supplement limited budgets; and a “fee system” in all schools which “violated basic principles of publicly supported education.”

The U.S. Navy took immediate notice of the impending loss of accreditation.

“This is a serious thing for Duval County,” said Rear Adm. Robert Goldthwaite, commanding officer of Fleet Air Jacksonville.

He said the action would be of great concern to military personnel. Students enrolled in Duval County schools who were transferred with their parents to another part of the country could face loss of credit or repetition of the work they did in Duval County.

“This will create a morale problem for men assigned to duty in the Jacksonville area naval bases. It might be decided to leave the wife and family in other duty areas rather than bring children into disaccredited schools,” Goldthwaite said.

Once lost, accreditation could take years to regain, Frick said. The school system would be forced to begin a full self-study in September 1965 as if applying for accreditation for the first time. They could not be evaluated until spring 1966 and it would be the following fall before the application could be considered.

• The Jacksonville Area Chamber of Commerce was among the first organizations to sound the alarm about education in Duval County, said William B. Johnson, executive vice president and general manager of the chamber.

He said the Community Development Program, a chamber study, reported Nov. 7, 1962, that improving education was the No. 1 priority for the county.

The report stated, in part: “Of all the basic problems facing the community, the greatest by far is to improve the level of education provided by the elementary and secondary schools administered by the Duval County Board of Public Instruction.

“The inferior financial support of our local school system in comparison with those of other Florida counties and those of comparable size throughout the United States is not debatable.

“Our children must make their place in a world now directed by science and technology. Industry will follow good education. There is no alternative. This is the greatest community problem and it must be given prime consideration.”

School Board member Raymond A. David agreed the association’s recommendation should come as no surprise.

“The thing that’s a shock to me is not that this happened but the fact that this is a shock to the people of the county. I cannot for the life of me figure out how it could come as a surprise to anybody,” he said.

• Jacksonville University President Robert Spiro said JU would continue to admit students from local high schools on a selective basis.

“But we must now place relatively more emphasis upon various test scores in judging qualifications for admission,” he said.

• City officials also felt the effects of the disaccreditation announcement.

City Airports Commissioner Lou Ritter at 8:30 a.m. Thursday called an emergency meeting of the Citizens Airport Advisory Committee, chaired by Luke Sadler, to consider recommending deferment of a proposed referendum on a $9 million bond issue related to building a new international airport.

The committee voted in favor of postponing the vote, “to prevent unwarranted defeat of the airport program in the crush of emotionalism over the school crisis.”

City Council called itself into special session at 9:30 a.m. to repeal the ordinance enacted on Tuesday that would have placed the bond issue in front of voters on Dec. 17.

• Proceeds from the annual Meninak Club charity football game, scheduled Dec. 4 in the Gator Bowl, were to be be used for construction of a permanent classroom at Pine Castle School.

The announcement was made by James B. Vent, chairman of the club’s Underprivileged Child Committee, during a meeting of the Meninaks at the Mayflower Hotel.

Appreciation of the decision was expressed by George Baldwin, chairman of the board of directors of the North Florida Association for Retarded Children, which had sponsored Pine Castle School since it opened in 1953.

The school began with 10 students and one teacher. By 1964, it had grown to 115 students. Baldwin estimated there were another 600 children in the county who could benefit from the specialized instruction offered by the school.

The game would be the 32nd consecutive high school gridiron contest sponsored by the club, ranking it with the oldest prep bowl games in the nation.

The cost of the project was not revealed, but with completion of the classroom, the club’s financial contribution to the city and its general welfare would exceed $350,000, Bent said.

Meninak also funded or contributed to the duPont Orthopedic School, the Meninak Wing at Hope Haven Children’s Hospital and the Opportunity House swimming pool.

• Jacksonville honored its military community with the traditional Veterans Day Parade through Downtown.

More than 5,000 marchers stepped off at 10:40 a.m. from the foot of Hogan Street.

The parade paused at 11 a.m. for a moment of silence in memory of those who died serving their country.

Distinguished guests seated on the reviewing stand outside the Federal Building along Julia Street included James Mills, Jacksonville’s Congressional Medal of Honor winner; Fred Poock of American Legion Post 9, the city’s oldest World War I veteran; and George Moran and Frank Merryfield, veterans of the Spanish-American War.

• Petitions by four suspended Jacksonville police officers to suppress bribery evidence against them allegedly secured by unconstitutional means were denied by U.S. District Judge Bryan Simpson.

A fifth officer, who also had been indicted on bribery charges, did not petition the court.

The officers, through attorneys Albert Datz, A.K. Black and M.H Myerson, contended their constitutional rights were violated by illegal searches and seizures conducted by FBI agents.

The defendants also contended that their right of privacy was violated when agents made secret tape recordings of conversations during the investigations.

The officers asked the court to prohibit the FBI agents from testifying in Criminal Court and also to suppress the evidence described as illegally obtained.

The attorneys also had the Clerk of the Criminal Court issue a subpoena to D.K. Brown, agent in charge of the FBI’s Jacksonville office, directing him to produce at the trial any statements made by FBI agents or other prosecution witnesses concerning an investigation of Jacksonville Mayor Haydon Burns, who the week before had been elected governor.

Datz, Myerson and Black declined comment on the subpoena.

The trial was scheduled to begin the week of Nov. 16

• Enzo Stuarti, nightclub and television singing star, was selected as the guest artist for the seventh annual Symphony Ball, scheduled Jan. 30 in the Municipal Coliseum.

Stuarti was a tenor who appeared regularly on “The Ed Sullivan Show” and performed in nightclubs in Chicago, Miami and New York City.

“It will be another first for the Symphony Ball since we have never before had a male vocalist as the ball entertainer,” said Mrs. Charles L. Hoffman, chairman of the Entertainment Committee.

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