2 of Duval County's struggling schools to get outside management

Lake Forest Elementary, Northwestern Middle earned D grades for years

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Two Duval County public schools will be turned over to an outside management company next week after each failed to receive a grade of C or better this year.

Two of three so-called turnaround schools that were the focus of intense focus in recent years either failed to improve or, in the case of Lake Forest Elementary, went from a D to an F in Florida Department of Education grades released Wednesday.

Northwestern Middle School retained its D grade.

Under a controversial state law passed last year, school districts with schools that received grades below a C for multiple years were given three options:

1) Close the school 
2) Turn the school over to a charter company
3) Allow the school to be managed by an external operator 

The Duval County School Board didn’t like the first two options and went with No. 3, hiring Educational Directions to take over management of the school effective July 1.

The county's chief academic officer, Mason Davis, said the district will still be involved, partnering with the outside firm in decisions about teaching and curriculum.

The firm did needs assessments in April and will begin working with the schools on Monday.

"(Students) should not see major changes in the building," Davis said. "Some of the academic requirements may change a little bit with actual day-to-day activities, but other than that, everything should remain fairly constant."

The contract is for two years but can be reduced as the district can take back control as soon as the schools receive a C or better. The district said Educational Directions worked with seven struggling schools during the 2011-12 school year. Davis said the firm did an excellent job and each of the seven improved at least one letter grade.

Lake Forest Elementary School, on the Northside, and Northwestern Middle School, in Northwest Jacksonville, have received a D or F grade in each of the past six years.

A third Duval County struggling school, Matthew Gilbert Middle, improved its grade to a C this year and will remain under the district’s management.

LOOK IT UP: School grades for every school in NE Florida

The 2017-18 school grades puts a several news Duval County schools on the struggling schools watch list.

  • Hyde Park Elementary dropped from a C to an F
  • Somerset Preparatory Academy went from a D to an F
  • Cedar Hills, Highlands, Stonewall Jackson, Martin Luther King Jr., Rufus Payne, Carter Woodson elementary schools and Saint Clair Evan Academy each went from a C to D
  • Gregory Drive, Long Branch, Susie Tolbert, Rutledge Pearson and George Washington Carver elementary schools and Waverly Academy each received D grades for a least the second year in a row

Parents feel they and the community both need to get more involved to improve schools.

"We all have to pull together as one to make everything, to make our kids successful," parent Yolanda Riggins said. "That being said, I just pray that everybody does a great job this year on the upcoming school year."

"It’s pretty much dependent on parents," Andrew Ramsey said. "I think we depend too much on the schools. I think it involves parent intervention. That’s the most important factor when it comes to education."

About the Authors:

Digital election producer in 2022. He created WJXT.com in 1995 and managed The Local Station's website through 2021.