Jax Urban Ed Symposium to spotlight charter schools: "the good, the bad and the ugly" - Florida Politics

Jax Urban Ed Symposium to spotlight charter schools: “the good, the bad and the ugly”

The battle over charter schools has been joined in some Florida cities, particularly in places such as Palm Beach.

Charters continue to grow in both popularity – and controversy.

It’s against that tense backdrop that Jacksonville prepares to host an annual event looking to improve graduation rates for the city’s young male blacks, and this year, the focus will be on charter schools as a “viable option.”

The co-founders of Jacksonville’s upcoming eighth annual Urban Education Symposium say they’re trying to help parents make an informed choice.

“We are looking at charter schools because our call to action has been focused on identifying a variety of approaches to deal with the achievement gap for young black males in Jacksonville,” said symposium co-founder Barbara Darby, the retired president of FSCJ North.

“Charter schools happen to be one of those approaches in assisting our young black males to achieve at a higher level,” Darby told WJCT.

“There are several charter schools in our area that focus on African-American boys and girls, like Valor and Virtue Academies,” said symposium co-founder Cleve Warren.

“Our attempt through this year’s symposium is really to provide information, the good, the bad, and the ugly about charter schools, so that when parents make this very important decision they will do so armed with good information,” said Darby.

Last month, Duval County saw its overall graduation rate tick upward by 2.6 percentage points over 2014, to about 76 percent. That’s an increase of about 13 percentage points over the last five years.

Superintendent Nikolai Vitti noted at the time that the district ranks first among the seven largest urban districts in its percentage of African-American high school graduates. However, an achievement gap remains, one the symposium is dedicated to erasing.

In addition to her work writing for Florida Politics, Melissa Ross also hosts and produces WJCT’s First Coast Connect, the Jacksonville NPR/PBS station’s flagship local call-in public affairs radio program. The show has won four national awards from Public Radio News Directors Inc. (PRNDI). First Coast Connect was also recognized in 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2014 as Best Local Radio Show by Folio Weekly’s “Best Of Jax” Readers Poll and Melissa has also been recognized as Folio Weekly’s Best Local Radio Personality. As executive producer of The 904: Shadow on the Sunshine State, Melissa and WJCT received an Emmy in the “Documentary” category at the 2011 Suncoast Emmy Awards. The 904 examined Jacksonville’s status as Florida’s murder capital. During her years in broadcast television, Melissa picked up three additional Emmys for news and feature reporting. Melissa came to WJCT in 2009 with 20 years of experience in broadcasting, including stints in Cincinnati, Chicago, Orlando and Jacksonville. Married with two children, Melissa is a graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism/Communications. She can be reached at m.ross66211@gmail.com.
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