JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacksonville City Council held a joint meeting Monday morning with the Duval County School Board.
Now, that might sound like another endless government meeting, but this one was different. Not only were the typical problems discussed about school funding and safety, but those in attendance also heard and saw what the students are doing and learning.
The meeting started with music from a group of students from Douglas Anderson School of the Arts and the Cathedral Arts Project. The purpose was to highlight how funds from the city and school board interact to help fund programs that produce young musicians who have been playing since grade school.
“It introduced me to the arts,” said music student N’diyah Bolte. “And now I get experiences like this. I think it’s pretty important that like everyone gets at least a shot at trying something new. Because that’s what orchestra was for me.”
That was just the start.
Other programs were discussed including those that address truancy and literacy, which is now a key political issue in Jacksonville.
Nysair Blake, a senior in high school, is working to leave an impact on elementary school children by tutoring them in reading. It’s part of the Read USA program.
It feels great,” Blake said. “It feels like I’m helping out — I know I am — the younger generation. But it feels great that it feels like I’m like a big brother to them. It feels like I can realistically make an impact on someone’s life on some level that’s bigger than myself. Like, as I said in the room, this is the future.”
It’s not surprising that school safety was the main focus of the joint meeting.
Members wanted to know what was being done to protect students. The Duval County School Police Department spoke about programs using K9s and how they interact with students, but the dogs are also sniffing out other problems like drugs and weapons.
The school district also highlighted a new piece of technology that every teacher and employee at Duval County Public Schools has. It’s an alarm system they wear around their necks with a button they can press if there’s an incident or personal problem. It can also be used if there is a problem with the whole school so police and others can respond.