The Duval Schools administration building on Thursday, May 23, 2024. | Megan Mallicoat, Jacksonville Today

OPINION | At the crossroads in education, don’t be a bystander

Published on May 24, 2024 at 11:51 am
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In just a few weeks, Duval County will usher in a new superintendent of schools, a figure whose influence will be felt across every classroom, every hallway, and every student’s future. This transition occurs at a crucial juncture in public education, where tough decisions loom large on the horizon.

The discourse buzzing throughout our community speaks to the gravity of the challenges ahead, including potential school closures and consolidations and the elimination of district and school-based staffing positions within Duval County Public Schools. These conversations stem from a complex interplay of factors, including the evolving landscape of educational choice, escalating building costs, and the loss of federal aid that was provided during the pandemic.

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Moreover, Duval County grapples with issues not unique to our locale: a concerning uptick in student absenteeism, low literacy rates, a persistent shortage of educators, and a lack of diversity among our teaching staff, among others. While organizations like the Jacksonville Public Education Fund and other community partners valiantly strive to help address such pressing needs, the reality is clear — it takes a concerted effort from all of us to carve out a brighter path forward for our children.

To embark on the journey toward educational excellence, we must make a solemn vow to actively engage in the civic life of Duval County, with education squarely at its heart.

This commitment begins with a steadfast focus on the upcoming school board elections, a pivotal moment when, right after the hiring of a new superintendent, the future leadership and therefore direction of public education in our city will be shaped. On August 20, during the primary elections, the majority of School Board seats will be on the ballot — a momentous occasion that demands our unwavering participation. Sadly, local elections, including those for the School Board, often languish in the shadow of their grander counterparts like presidential or gubernatorial races. Yet, it is these very local decisions that wield the most profound impact on our day-to-day lives and the future of our children.

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Beyond casting our ballots, true engagement necessitates active involvement in the discourse shaping our educational landscape. Attend School Board meetings, lend your voice to community gatherings, and stand as a beacon of advocacy for our students and educators alike.

Attend our forum

On Tuesday, May 28, the Jacksonville Public Education Fund will host a Community Conversation — an opportunity for us to collectively confront the challenges facing public education head on. I implore you to seize this chance to be heard, to be part of the solution. Register for the event and elevate your thoughts, concerns, and ideas for our future.

The narrative of our collective journey is still being written, each chapter penned by the actions we take and the choices we make. As we turn the page to the next chapter, let us be emboldened by the power and potential that resides within each of us. Let us pledge to build thriving communities that nurture the dreams of every child, in every corner of Jacksonville.

It is incumbent upon us all to stay informed, to remain engaged, and to activate those within our networks to do the same. Together, we can forge a brighter tomorrow for the generations yet to come.

author image Rachel Tutwiler Fortune is president of the Jacksonville Public Education Fund, an independent "think-and-do" tank that advocates for the success of all students.
author image Rachel Tutwiler Fortune is president of the Jacksonville Public Education Fund, an independent "think-and-do" tank that advocates for the success of all students.

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