JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A tough day for the Duval County School board on Thursday as it laid off hundreds of employees and heard harsh words from parents frustrated with the lack of progress at the intervene schools.
The board voted to layoff 87 teachers, 94 paraprofessionals (teacher adies), and 75 civil service employees including school maintenance workers and office workers.
"Many of these people have been employed here a long time, they are doing a great job but we have had to let them go because there is no money, " said board chairman W.C. Gentry. "It will effect the schools, you need people to run the schools. So at a time we are trying to ramp up , we are having to layoff a lot of good people."
"You will see larger class sizes, less field trips, less of the arts, less guidance counselors, less librarians, the list goes on and on," said Duval Teachers Union President Terrie Brady. " It is sad they are playing politics with our children's lives over in Tallahassee." Brady said the Legislature could have funded education more even in hard times.
Board member Betty Burney is hoping that volunteers will step up to help out in the schools. " It is so frustrating because it touches the child, something we have tried to avoid since I have been on the board."
During the public comment period of the board meeting, several parents spoke to the board about the four intervene schools, North Shore K-8, Ribault High, Raines High and Jackson High.
It was two days ago the state Board of Education voted to give the board another year to operate the schools and show improvement. If not, the state would require an outside group come in and run the schools.
Parent Eunice Barnum blasted the board, saying her kids and all those at those schools deserve better. " You grown folk sit here and steal our tax dollars on the backs of our children and you think it is cute, you should be fired." She said the data showed the kids were not being educated properly and the board and staff should be held accountable.
Parent Tameka Gaines said she wanted to see a comprehensive plan for how these schools will be improved.
Superintendent Ed Pratt-Dannals told First Coast News that he was as frustrated as anyone, but there is a plan. School board members were to hear some of the plan details at a meeting later in the day. " We have confidence we are going to move forward with this plan. The turnaround schools progressed more than our other schools, so we are seeing progress, it just needs to be faster."
Board Chairman W.C. Gentry said many of those complaining to the board today were also at the Board of Education meeting in Tampa and Tuesday. He says while Miami appeared unified, the comments of those parents cast the Duval County school system in a bad light. 'So do they have a right to do that? Yes. Does it negatively imparct the impression of our district? Certainly it does," said Gentry.
"They come and get their 3 to 5 minutes on television and before the public at our meetings. It is not accurate, but that is what we have to deal with and we will do our job. We are going to succeed , but if we don't we should have to do something different."
Board member Fel Lee said he had confidence in the superintendent but , " We can't have any more excuses. We have to make these schools successful."