Pensacola, Florida
Saturday October 25th 2014

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Outtakes 3/22/12

MIRACLE NEEDED A.A. Dixon Charter School of Excellence needs a miracle. Last week, the Florida Department of Education told the Escambia County School Board that the school isn’t likely to improve under the new state grading requirements.

Remember this inner-city elementary school has taken some of the lowest performing children in the district and was branded last year a failing school due to its low FCAT scores. Another “F” means the school district will shut them down.

What you might not remember is that the charter school was started by a company that Superintendent Malcolm Thomas approved. When Friendship Missionary Baptist Church was trying to buy the Brownsville Middle School, Thomas blocked the charter school from cutting a deal that might have helped the church buy that facility.

Thomas steered the charter school to A. A. Dixon, but his affections for the operators didn’t last long. For some reason, the expectation set for Dixon was that it would miraculously improve reading scores, sometimes as much as four grades levels, so that all the children would be reading on grade level within nine months. Oakcrest Elementary needed five years to go from an “F” to “A” school.

Compounding the problem, the school district failed to give Dixon its Title I money, $62,658. Federal law mandates all charter schools receive their Title I funding, no later than 5 months after the school first opens. It’s not surprising that Dixon finished the 2010-11 school year over $120,000 in the red.
Last summer, Rev. LuTimothy May stepped up to reorganize the school. The teachers took pay cuts, a new principal was hired, and the old debt knocked down.  Today, only about $47,000 of the school’s payable is more than 90 days old.

Taking the school so late in the planning process put A.A. Dixon at a huge disadvantage. May and his team had a nearly impossible task of finding reading coaches, performing assessments and restructuring the ciriculum. FDOE chastised them for it.

There has been a disturbing pattern with the district. Successes are claimed and failures are someone else’s fault. Instead of blasting Rev. May and his team, the district should praise them for trying to rescue this school that serves some of the most challenged kids in the district.

The district clearly wants A.A. Dixon to fail. Last week, they got a report that showed they could get what they want.

Excuse me for not celebrating. I’m praying for the miracle that Rev. May, his board, teachers and parents need to happen.