Two low performing schools in Leon County are facing an ultimatum. Improve or risk going under private management. Both are located in the the county’s southern region which also has the highest number of minorities and lowest per-family income in the county. But the candidates running to represent that area on the Leon County School Board say they each have a plan to turn things around.
Charles Williams serves on the District’s Title 1 advisory board, which studies low-income and high-minority schools. He says what he’s learned on the council advises his approach to helping Oakridge and Pineview Elementary schools. Both are located in the school board’s third district, and Williams wants to bring in community partners and social services like, "after school programs, bring in more parents to learn life-skills training, family literacy skills, those types of things. Trauma-informed care. Those kind of entities that will actually empower them," he says.
Meanwhile, current board member Maggie Lewis Butler says the school district is busy coming up with a a plan to save the schools from being removed from its oversight. That means making sure kids are actually attending school and keeping in contact with families.
“Make sure the counselor is checking the attendance of the student, because you know low school grades are just part of academics, they factor in attendance. So we’re making sure counselors are checking on the child and the families. That’s being monitored.”
Former school administrator Donna Hays Austin says she’s turned around troubled schools before. Hays-Austin says her work in Georgia informs the approach she would take to Oakridge and Pineview if elected to the district three seat. Part of that means identifying students who need the most help. And the other part means making sure that students are learning the skills they need to be successful at the next grade.
"It’s important that second grade knows what third grade is doing," she said. "Because if you look at the standards, there are missing pieces, because when kids start matriculating to the next grade, teachers say, ‘you didn’t teach them this’. The way you filter all that out…is building that data team with multiple levels so you can see what’s going on.”
Also in the race is Lynn Jones, whose campaign is centered on making sure every child can read and write.
“One thing we know is that if a child’s reading curriculum is appropriate and a teacher knows the student, they can do better with literacy.”
According to a recent report the county school board’s third district has a higher share of "C" and "D;"- rated schools and a larger group of minorities. Candidate Darryl Jones says the area serves as the conscience of Leon County—representing students and families who need the most help:
“If we want to end economic segregation in our community, we need a brand new voice," said Jones. "I’m also providing listening ears. It’s going to require more than teachers and principals to evidence this change. It’s going to require all hands on deck.”
Based on that same Title 1 report, Oakridge and Pineview are receiving about $9,000 per student when both state and federal funds are included. In all, that's about 14 percent more than other district schools get.