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Some neighbors against plan to close Northwestern Middle in future

Plan to close 2 underperforming schools approved by Department of Education

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Department of Education voted unanimously Wednesday to approve Duval County Public Schools' plan to close two underperforming schools, according to a report by the Florida Times-Union.

The schools affected by the plan include Lake Forest Elementary and Northwestern Middle School.

Lake Forest, which received an F letter grade, has closed and will become an early learning community center.

Now, all eyes on Northwestern, which Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene announced will close at the end of the 2019-20 school year. The district’s plan to convert Northwestern into an elementary school is contingent upon whether voters approve a half-cent sales tax to fund the district’s master facilities plan.

Jacksonville native Tony Bell is a father of three children, two of whom go to Northwestern Middle. He does not agree with Greene’s decision to close Northwestern Middle.  

“I guarantee you, if the people in the community took a vote, they would vote to keep that school there, the way it is," Bell said. 

Northwestern Middle received its fourth consecutive D in the 2018-19 school year. 

“Get better teachers. Hire better teachers, more teachers," said Everette Tyson, who lives in Northwest Jacksonville.

Now-shuttered Lake Forest Elementary, which is less than 2 miles away from Northwestern, received an F grade in 2018-19. Both schools were taken over by an external operator during the 2018-19 school year.

A half-mile away is Carter G. Woodson Elementary School, the only other school in Duval County to receive an F last year.

On Monday, News4Jax reporter Zachery Lashway had the opportunity to speak with Greene.  

Lashway: "Is that school (Woodson) in jeopardy of closing?"
Greene: "That school is not in jeopardy of closing as it relates to academic achievement. That school is part of the master facilities plan."
Lashway: "Northwestern is still slated to close?"  
Greene: "My plan is that Northwestern will close at the end of the 2019-20 school year."  
Lashway: "What would you give yourself for a report card grade?"
Greene: "For myself, I would give myself a B.  Until I moved every single school out of a grade of a D or an F, I cannot rate myself an A -- super."  

Lashway also asked Florida Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran if he was satisfied with Greene’s tenure so far.

"She’s only been on the job for a year," Corocan said. "I think the great thing about Florida -- not Dr. Greene, not anyone in the other districts -- we measure. We measure in Florida. Now the people of this Florida community are asking for their local and state leaders to measure reality."

The three schools mentioned all fall in District 6.  

“If the only schools that are failing are the three right over here in this area that says volumes. They are spending more money elsewhere," Tyson said.

News4Jax contacted state Sen. Audrey Gibson. In a statement, she responded, saying, “I have great confidence in Superintendent Greene as an administrator of our school district ... she has taken the bull by the horns.”  

The school district said it will be launching a new program in which retired teachers will mentor new teachers. Information about the program was unavailable Thursday. 


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