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Local Students Heading Back to School Today

It's the time again for students all over the First Coast. The first day of school.

Duval County Superintendent of Schools Ed Pratt-Dannals has issued the following letter to the public laying out the current challenges and opportunities facing the school district:

I hope you are enjoying the last few weeks of summer, and are looking forward to the start of the 2009-2010 school year, beginning Monday, August 24. Our administrators and staff have been working diligently over the break to prepare for a successful year.

During the upcoming year, we will remain focused on improving the academic achievement for all our students. Our graduation rate has risen more than seven percentage points in the last 10 years. Additionally, our most recent FCAT scores showed that more than two-thirds of our schools earned good or excellent grades. These gains in achievement can be attributed to the hard work of our students, teachers, principals, district support staff and community members, and I expect that we will see even greater improvements this year.

While there are many wonderful activities and achievements for us to celebrate and look forward to as we begin the new school year, there are also challenges. Our biggest challenge is our budget, which faced a shortfall of $44 million this year, coupled with a $70 million dollar shortfall in 2008.

Budget reduction strategies already implemented include an 11% reduction in district staff, the closing of a school, and changes in transportation and the secondary schedule. It is our priority to ensure that we have as minimal an impact on the classroom as possible, and will continue to work with our School Board to ensure that our students have the ability to graduate from high school ready for post-secondary education or the world of work.

With our district operating on a minimized budget, your continued support will be more important than ever. Education is a joint venture. We must work together to enable our students to thrive and achieve at their highest levels.

Thank you for your continued support of Duval County Public Schools. Have a wonderful school year!

Ed Pratt-Dannals

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