April 30  Pajcics make Million Dollar Match

CORE program draws praise, ideas from education groups
By Laura Diamond
Florida Times-Union staff writer
Sunday, March 31, 2002

National education groups are praising a proposal by the teachers union and school system that provides incentives to encourage experienced teachers to work in Duval County's poorest-performing schools.

The proposal, which still faces a vote by the Duval County School Board, would be implemented this summer at seven elementary schools located on the Northside and in Northwest Jacksonville. The schools have not been selected.

Every position in the schools would be open and teachers and principals would apply to work there for four years. Those who can document past success in helping students improve are most likely to be selected.

Staff would receive additional training and decide what program should be used to improve student achievement. Teachers and principals would receive a $2,500 supplement at the end of each year if there is improved student achievement.

"It is a very positive step," said Arthur E. Wise, president of the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education. The Washington-based coalition of 33 professional organizations of educators and policymakers focuses on improving the quality of teaching.

Hitting home

Anyone wanting to donate money to support Creating Opportunities that Result in Excellence (CORE) can contact Terrie Brady, president of Duval Teachers United, at (904) 396-4063.

"It sounds like they are moving in the right direction," Wise said. "This is what we are advocating more school districts to do."

Wise co-authored a recent article listing 10 things school systems can do to turn around low-achieving schools. One of the steps included placing the most experienced teachers in these schools.

Across the nation, low-performing urban schools tend to have inexperienced teachers. More experienced teachers would bring the skills needed to help these students, said Terrie Brady, president of Duval Teachers United.

The Duval proposal, called Creating Opportunities that Result in Excellence (CORE), would prevent new teachers from working in low-achieving schools unless they already have extensive experience in those settings.

Christopher Cross, a senior fellow with the Center on Education Policy, which advocates for more effective public schools, said he favors programs like CORE.

Cross suggested that the new principals be trained on how to interpret student data and to use those figures to develop programs to improve student learning.

Duval's proposal suggests that only principals who already have such skills would be placed in the schools.

Wise also provided some suggestions. He encouraged the school system to work with the University of North Florida and allow the selected schools to serve as training centers for education majors. Such a partnership would create a steady stream of teachers prepared to work in struggling schools, he said.

A plan is being developed in which UNF teaching students would complete internships in some, but not all, of the schools selected to participate in CORE, said Ed Pratt-Dannals, a regional superintendent whose district includes many of the low-achieving schools.

Pratt-Dannals has worked with Brady to draft the new program. The plan builds on reforms already implemented at the struggling schools.

There has been a concerted effort to reduce class size at these schools and place additional computers in each classroom. Teachers and principals have received additional training on how to help students succeed. And the schools implemented student tutoring sessions before and after school, as well as on weekends.

Since Wednesday's announcement, Brady said teachers and others in the community have contacted the union to learn more.

About $750,000 is needed to provide all the financial supplements at the seven elementary schools. The union and school system are asking area companies to donate money to cover that cost. The school system would fund the training and the purchase of curriculum and other materials.

The plan is likely to go before the board in May, but that would be postponed if the money has not be raised to support the plan, Brady said.

Staff writer Laura Diamond can be reached at (904) 359-4351 or via e-mail at ldiamond@jacksonville.com.









What is C.O.R.E.?

n     C.O.R.E. stands for Creating Opportunities that Result in Excellence. This initiative is a collaborative venture by the Duval County Public Schools, Duval Teachers United, and business partners to assist in turning around schools not meeting state academic expectations through the empowerment and support of school based academic and leadership teams.









Why Is the C.O.R.E. Initiative Nece ssary?

§         Stable, highly qualified staffs are needed in all schools but most of all in academically challenged schools. Over the years, it has been difficult to place and retain high quality staffs at academically challenged schools. This initiative provides the opportunity and incentives for instructional and leadership teams to voluntarily transfer to schools where they are most needed.

§         Provisions in Florida’s A+ plan as well as the new federal government’s ESEA “No Child Left Behind Act” address educational accountability. Both pieces of legislation allow for public school sanctions and state take over where students are not meeting acceptable levels of performance. C.O.R.E. Is an effort to prevent such negative consequences in Duval county.











C.O.R.E. Mission Statement:

   Our mission is to recruit and retain the best instructional and leadership teams in order to improve student performance in challenged schools.











C.O.R.E. Vision Statement

   Within four years, the academic performance of students in seven select elementary schools will meet or exceed the average district performance on key academic indicators. This will be accomplished through the creation of individual school communities where all stakeholders are competent, committed, caring, and held to a higher standard.









C.O.R.E. Program Highlights

n    Rigorous screening procedures for selection of instructional and leadership teams for schools

 n     Teachers and leaders will agree to teach in identified challenged schools for four years

 n     Yearly leadership and instructional staff performance assessments with staffing adjustments made as necessary

n     Coalitions with community stakeholders to encourage parental and community participation in the educational process.

 n     Higher performance standards for leadership and instructional personnel

 n     Intensive training in team–building and best instructional practices

n     Collegial, culturally sensitive school environment nurtured to facilitate student achievement

 n     Contract waivers for initiatives that may interfere with objectives

 n     Close monitoring of schools including feedback from stakeholders on what is and isn’t working 

n     Single DTU staff consultant assigned to address needs and concerns of all C.O.R.E. Schools

 n     Wellness checks for staff

 n     Monetary incentives of up to $2500 yearly for teacher and leadership personnel who demonstrate their contribution toward improving student achievement

 n     Technological support for teachers

 n     Additional perks as available through vendors









Selection of C.O.R.E. Schools

Criteria for selection:

n     Past and projected school performance (school grade)

 n     Level of difficulty in maintaining quality staff

 n     Educational load factors (free and reduced lunch percentages)









Criteria for Teacher Selection

Preferred background experience:

n    Prior experience in urban setting or teaching low performing students          

n    National Board Certification

n    Professional services contract or tenure

n    Formal training in literacy, math, or possess other special certifications








Additional Teacher Criteria

Required teacher criteria:

n     Certified in area of instruction

n     Four- year commitment

n     Acceptance that continued placement at the CORE School is contingent upon outstanding performance in the annual teacher assessment and annual progress of student achievement

n     Show measurable academic student gains each year 

n     Document evidence of student growth in academics through use of portfolios.

n     Integrate subject areas

n     Utilize current research, implement standards based instruction, and best instructional practices effectively

n     Effectively manage student discipline in the classroom

n     Effectively involve parents and volunteers to assist students in the educational setting

n     Demonstrate sensitivity to cultural differences

n     Committed to problem solving resulting in win-win solutions 

n     Experience in participating in the shared decision making process

n     Willing to waive identified contractual language

n     Willing to attend meetings and participate in training beyond contractual limitations











Criteria for Principal Selection

n     Proven evidence of leadership in instruction

n     Knowledge of best instructional practices, current research, and effective implementation of standards

n     Able to effectively use data, assess student progress and teacher effectiveness 

n     Team builder – able to create an effective and professional learning community

n     Able to effectively use the shared decision making process for school governance, building consensus, school improvement planning, and the change process

n     Committed to problem solving resulting in “win win” solutions

n     Able to organize and manage an effective school wide discipline plan

n     Able to involve all stakeholders, especially parents, community organizations, and businesses in the school improvement process

n     Acceptance that continued placement at the C.O.R.E. School will depend on annual progress in student achievement and maintaining a positive school climate









Selection of Staff

n     A memorandum of understanding will be in place to allow for transfers beyond the regular transfer process deadline

n     Instructional and leadership staff will be selected through the interview process using the criteria set forth

n     Principals will be selected first by the Superintendent with input from the Regionals and DTU. Interview teams for instructional personnel will include DCPS, DTU, and selected C.O.R.E. School Principals









Commitments to C.O.R.E. Schools

     In order to ensure C.O.R.E. Schools are effectively meeting the requirements of the program and the needs of the students, we will review the budget and program of each school for adequacy in the following areas:


n     Guidance counseling and /or behavioral intervention staff to assist students who are not complying with school conduct expectations

n     Administrative and/or professional development personnel to support teacher training and coaching (TIS, Vice-Principal, or lead teacher)

n     Paraprofessionals to work in self-contained exceptional education classrooms to help students meet academic and behavioral expectations and to help in the cafeteria and other general supervision of students

n     Class sizes to ensure that teachers can effectively assist all students in meeting high standards.

n     School-wide discipline plan for effectiveness to ensure the behavior of students meets high expectations

n     Testing and placement procedures for students being considered for special programs to ensure that the process receives priority status








Tuesday, April 30, 2002

  Terrie Brady, president of Duval Teachers United, gets a hug from Steve Pajcic while his brother, Gary Pajcic, watches at the podium at Annie R. Morgan School. The Pajcics gave $1 million to the CORE program. At far right is Jim Horne, state education commissioner.
-- Don Burk/Staff
Making a million-dollar match
Pajcics assist school program


By Laura Diamond
Times-Union staff writer

Two Jacksonville lawyers donated $1 million to a new program to encourage experienced principals and teachers to work in Duval County's lowest-performing schools.

Brothers Gary and Steve Pajcic announced their contribution yesterday at Annie R. Morgan Elementary, the school they attended as children.

The donation supports Creating Opportunities that Result in Excellence (CORE), a program created by Duval County public school system staff and Duval Teachers United to improve student achievement. The program would give principals and teachers a $2,500 supplement at the end of the school year if they improve student achievement.

The plan, which the School Board is scheduled to vote on during its May 7 meeting, would be implemented at five elementary schools. So far, Annie R. Morgan is the only school selected.

"I don't think there's anything more important that we could do for kids and education than this program," Steve Pajcic said.

The program focuses on elementary schools that received a D or F from the state because of low scores on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.

Many of the teachers in these schools are new and lack the skills to help struggling students. Half of the new teachers leave in the first year. Those who stay tend to transfer out once they earn seniority.

The hope is the supplements would encourage more experienced teachers to work at the five selected schools. Those already working at the schools who are helping students improve would be asked to stay.

The school system has raised about $1.5 million to support the program, said Terrie Brady, president of Duval Teachers United.

Education Secretary Jim Horne called CORE a model for the state and nation. Horne, a former senator from Orange Park who attended Annie R. Morgan as a child, said he would ask other business leaders to donate to the program.

Superintendent John Fryer said using private money to support the program tells teachers that their work is valued by the entire community.

Gary Pajcic said their decision to contribute to the program helps guarantee that other children have the same opportunities they had growing up.

"We believe that education is the key that opens the door to opportunity," said Steve Pajcic, adding that good teachers are a requirement to receiving a quality education.

Steve Pajcic said he still remembers the six teachers at Annie R. Morgan who inspired him. Yesterday, he thanked: Nicholson, Stubbs, Mossburg, Padgett, Smith and Goad.

Staff writer Laura Diamond can be reached at (904) 359-4351 or via e-mail at ldiamond@jacksonville.com.