This week, I enjoyed visiting the Cummer Museum in Jacksonville. There are many fantastic exhibits to see including one that included photographic and documentary art highlighting the problem of school dropouts. It shared the stories of 20 students who were at risk of dropping out, but now have either graduated or are on track to graduate. It was quite moving.
While in Jacksonville, I also visited Andrew Jackson High and North Shore Elementary, I was interested in seeing what changes have taken place to ramp up academic performance during my tours.
At Andrew Jackson, I met with Principal Iranetta R. Wright, Superintendent Ed Pratt-Dannals, and various school board members. The school has partnered with Blue Cross/Blue Shield for a career tech program to emphasize the health care industry as a great career option for students. A group of 12th graders told me how much the partnership has helped improve the culture of the school and how the community has embraced the change.
At North Shore, I met with Principal Felicia W. Hardaway and several teachers. A big change they recently made to help better address the needs of their students was to transform from a K-8 system into a K-5. The school also developed a micro-society program to help teach life financial skills and entrepreneurship, where students are organized by class and grade into towns/states. They elect leaders, pay taxes and fees, and earn “money” via attendance, completion of work, among many other things. I chatted briefly with a student running for the office of governor of the second grade, and she gave me her campaign speech on how she wanted to reduce taxes.
I was also pleased that one of Florida’s State Board of Education members, Mr. Gary Chartrand, joined me for the school visits. He has a deep passion for education and improving the lives of young people and had this to share about the visits:
“This week I spent an entire day with Commissioner Robinson in the Jacksonville community as part of his “look, listen and learn” tour. We visited schools, talked with school leaders, teachers and students to gain a better understanding of the challenges we face in enhancing student achievement. I was also on my own look, listen and learn tour and I can tell everyone associated with public education that your commissioner is the right person for the job. He has a calling to improve learning for all students so each individual can reach their full potential in life. We are fortunate to have Gerard Robinson as our commissioner.”
My visit to Jacksonville was great, and I look forward to continuing my look, listen and learn tour – stay tuned!