Teachers Voices Jacksonville Education Fund Educators were provided the opportunity to engage in dialogue about the educational status of schools and the established mindset that parents and community are responsible and accountable to the success of all students in Duval County Public School system. Teachers Voices provided a powerful and dynamic academic “Think Tank” of experienced and dedicated educators to share ideas relevant to educational success for students. This discussion was designed to engage an intellectual dialogue from professional educators, substitute teachers, business leaders, community stakeholders, and administrators. These individual elements ultimately influence the instructional atmosphere of schools, to the responsibilities of parents and the involvement of the business community that also has a stake in making sure future workers are prepared for the work place. The morning engagement was hosted at WJCT Studios; educators and those in the public who have a strong desire to positively impact education participated in Teacher Voices, the first of hundreds of conversations that will make up the Jacksonville Public Education Fund’s ONE by ONE initiative. Those in attendance were provided an opportunity to speak out about what parents, businesses, political representatives and the community should do, can do and should not do in support of schools. Not just what educators and administrators should be responsible? Rarely do teachers have the chance to openly talk about the challenges they face without being ridiculed and policies thrown at them. This is a volatile time for education; the community, politicians, parents and business owners must take time to listen to educators and renew their support and lift morale of educators. When talking about educational matters many times teachers; these dedicated professionals who have years of instructional experience, curriculum development, technology skills, and classroom management experience are not asked their opinion when changes are being made and policies enacted. Legislative policies and procedures are thrust upon teachers without any consideration to the ramifications with increased work load, professional development and the impact it will have in the classroom. Teachers Voices provided time to extend expertise and a voice beyond the classroom to advocate for making quality education equitable for all children and a priority in Jacksonville. Duval County Public Schools manages 177 schools and serves about 123,000 students. Each and every student deserves a high quality education. The school district is working to provide quality educational opportunities that help students to grow, but parents are responsible and accountable as well to help teachers. Educators are trained professionals in their tasks teaching in the schools, but unfortunately too few educational successes are shared with the public. Graduation rates have increased over the years, reading, math and science scores have improved because of teacher’s dedication to press forward despite challenges, threat of merit pay initiatives and continued changes in state assessments that do not allow for stability and consistency in the educational process. There seems to be a disconnect by state legislatures that underfund education, they have not spoken to teachers about their challenges created by lack of funding, lack of support and lack of respect. Legislative representatives do not visit challenged school districts, challenged classrooms nor do they talk to challenged students to get a clearer picture of what is realistically happening in the schools. This creates a one sided and one size fits all mentality when addressing educational policies and procedures. The discussions outlined what works in strong and consistant administration, professional learning communities (PLC’s), integration of technology, and professional development. Other considerations were the increase of vocational education geared for students who do not have aspirations of college and a major concern is that of equity in how schools are supported and overall unity of the Jacksonville community. At the end of the discussions participants were provided the opportunity to talk about their impressions of the first Teacher Voices. They were recorded for later broadcast by WJCT and expressed their feelings and hopes for education in Jacksonville, Florida. Our schools are a representative of our communities, failing schools indicate failing neighborhoods, so it is the responsibility of the whole community to work together in unification to equally support learning for all students no matter geographic location, zip code or economic level. Stated by Tavis Smiley that can be applied to the importance of education not just as a local concern, but nationally, “the key to our democracy is education, an educated citizenry is important because it prepares our children for the benefits and burdens of our democratic society” (Accountable 2010). Teachers help to build educated youth that will be future employees, business owners, tax payers and builders of our community. It is beneficial to everyone that all children are academically successful, graduates of high school and productive in society. The ramification of an uneducated society are paramount to economic collapse and social decay. It is everyone’s responsibility to make sure our teachers are supported, our schools are equitably supported in monies and resources and parents are involved in making sure their children are prepared to learn. Pictures can be found at: photobucket.com/teachervoices The next Jacksonville Education Fund event is: Student Town Hall Discussion Saturday December 10, 2011 1:00 PM – 4:00 PM ONE by ONE Student Town Hall Murray Hill Theatre, 932 Edgewood Avenue South For more information on the upcoming student discussion. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (904) 356-7757 Students, this is their opportunity to add their VOICE to the ONE by ONE campaign. This Saturday Town Hall meeting event features special guest Al Letson, host of NPR’s State of the RE: Union and a performance by ONEpush, the ONE by ONE youth street team.