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Jax Daily Record Friday, Oct. 20, 201707:00 AM EST

Schools, business work to improve education

Executive PASS partnerships seek to bring innovation to the classroom.
by: Caren Burmeister Contributing Writer

Jean Ribault High School was the first school in Jacksonville to offer an AP computer science class, a project forged by a business and educator partnership program that’s working to improve public education in Duval County.

About 40 educators and business executives attended at networking session Wednesday to discuss how Executive PASS partnerships are bringing innovation to the classroom.

Executive PASS is a program that partners school principals and company CEOs. It was created by the late Leonard Miller, founder of homebuilder Lennar Corp.

Elaine Lifton, president and executive director of the Council for Educational Change.

The program is run by the Council for Educational Change, a statewide nonprofit that focuses on school leadership to improve academic performance in socio-economic disadvantaged schools. There are 29 Executive PASS schools in Duval County.

About 75 percent of students participating in the program have made academic gains, said Elaine Lifton, president and executive director of the Council for Educational Change. PASS schools have also improved leadership quality and integrated technological and workforce skills into classroom studies and projects.  

“We found a lot of business leaders have qualities that compliment what we do in schools,” Lifton said, noting they mentor school principals on strategic planning, problem-solving, team building and innovative thinking.

Working together, the principals and business executives develop initiatives to help schools overcome barriers to academic improvement. The projects range from professional development activities and organizational strategies to mentoring students or providing incentives to motivate students and staff.

To improve attendance and reduce tardiness at John E. Ford Elementary School in 2015, then-principal Paula Renfro collaborated with Jerry Mallot, president of the JAXUSA Partnership and executive vice president of JAX Chamber. They developed an incentive program for students who attended school and showed up on time, offering them a chance to win a bicycle and a trip to a Jacksonville Suns baseball game.

During the first three months of that year, 462 students showed up to school on time, compared with 178 students the previous quarter, Renfro said. It improved their academic performance, too, she said.  

“It was wonderful,” Renfro said. “It was some of the most exciting work I’ve ever done.”

Another partnership at the Young Men and Young Women’s Leadership Academy is giving students access to 40 work experiences a year and $1,000 internships to prepare them for the workforce.

“The internship program is the largest of its kind in the country,” said Truitte Moreland, the school’s principal who is partnering with Florida Blue Market President Darnell Smith on the project.

Until Ribault High developed the AP computer science class in partnership with Acosta Sales and Marketing, those classes were only available online because no Jacksonville teachers were certified to teach it, said Robb Copeland, executive director of Northeast Florida STEM2 Hub.  

“It was only virtual reality or nothing,” Copeland said. “We’re making a big push to expand computer science capacity in Duval County.”

The Council for Educational Change is seeking more business partnerships through its PASS program.

For more information, call Kisya Johnson at (904) 540-9874 or email at [email protected]. Or, call Jordan Baker at (904) 768-8523.


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