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School spotlight

Charter school ‘Nerds’ head to National Science Olympiad

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – They may call themselves “The Nerds,” but to their peers at the River City Science Academy charter school, the group of 15 dedicated bookworms is as celebrated as any championship-level athletics team. On Saturday, River City’s science team will compete for the second consecutive year at the Science Olympiad National Tournament held at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. River City’s squad is one of two teams from Florida, and one of 60 middle school teams from around the country that will compete, along with a Japanese team also vying for the championship. There are nearly 8,000 Science...

Customized education reaps benefits for Jacksonville teen

When Kayla Fudge was a newborn, her mother struggled to take care of her. In swooped Kayla’s great aunt Glendora like a guardian angel. She loved. She nurtured. And she taught. A public school teacher for 14 years, Glendora Jackson-Fudge raised three children of her own before adopting Kayla when she was 2. Glendora and husband Michael Fudge, a landscaper for 30 years, didn’t have much money. But as parents they were full of fun, wisdom, and old-school values. “They’re mom and dad to me,” said Kayla, who was born and raised in Jacksonville. “They didn’t have to take me, they...

Mother-son team collaborate to offer education choice

https://youtu.be/Z8dedKF25DI POMPANO BEACH, Fla. – When Julia Musella enrolled her son Luciano in preschool in Italy, her understanding of education underwent a sea change. “People were talking to children as if they were adults,” she said. “They were respecting their intelligence. They were really fostering community, working collaboratively, cooperatively, giving them experiences that made them think rather than just teach at them or ask them to memorize.” A couple of decades later, Julia and Luciano work side by side as administrators who deliver a similar style of education at BB International School, where nary a conversation occurs without mention of collaboration. It’s...
school choice

Young gymnast overcomes rocky start and soars

By ROGER MOONEY  ZEPHYRHILLS – Gazing at his 8-year-old granddaughter from across his dining room, George Hill concluded that he and his wife, Robin, have been blessed. “She’s dedicated. She’s smart. She’s a hard worker,” he said, describing the child who was born addicted to the opioids her mother, who wants nothing to do with her, took while pregnant. He used another word to describe the child: perseverant. Because despite her rough start, Skylar Goeb is flourishing. A straight-A student, she attends Heritage Academy, a K2-8 Christian school, on a Florida Tax Credit Scholarship. (Step Up For Students, which administers the scholarship, hosts this...
school choice

Patience, understanding bring scholarship student back from brink

OCOEE, Fla. – The young teacher called, tears choking her words. She wanted to quit. On the other end of the line was Rose Theagene, horrified but not surprised. She knew her youngest son, Darryl Dutervil, was on the verge of expulsion due to escalating behavior problems in first grade at his neighborhood school. “He threw a chair at the teacher, and it almost hit another student,” she recalled. “He was pushing and hitting kids. Parents were complaining. It was very bad. At the meeting, I just said I would take Darryl out of the school to save everyone the trouble.” Rose...

Private school, public district collaborate to benefit teachers, students

CAPE CORAL, Fla. – Judi Hughes is a serial retirer. Nowhere is her quick wit more evident than when she explains why she came out of retirement a third time – after more than 40 years in the School District of Lee County – to be principal at St. Andrew Catholic School in this sprawling, sun-soaked suburban city. “Irish Catholic guilt,” she says with a rhythmic chuckle, adding that she only had intended to help with the hiring process when the school drafted her. Five years later, she’s still brimming with infectious energy that flashes from her baby blue eyes, and she’s...
school choice

The family no one knew was homeless

DEERFIELD BEACH, Fla. – Just when Ruthanne Dumas thought her life couldn’t fall apart any further, she got the biggest scare of it. A steady financial decline had left her and her two youngest daughters, Isabella and Gabriella, homeless. The girls had recently started at a new private school, thanks to education choice scholarships. And then a sudden illness landed Isabella in intensive care. Doctors thought she might have leukemia. “It was horrible,” Ruthanne recalled, her voice trembling. After it turned out to be just a virus and the raw fear and panic had subsided, Isabella’s new principal and teacher arrived. They brought...
charter school

Charter takeover helped students ‘have a chance at life’

TALLAHASSEE -- Three students from rural, impoverished Jefferson County on Tuesday testified before Florida’s House Education Committee about dramatic improvements at their schools since 2017, when the local district relinquished control of its traditional public schools to a charter school operator. Prior to the historic transformation, Jefferson County had been among the state’s lowest-performing districts for about a decade. More than half its high school students had been retained in a grade at least twice. In 2016, just 7 percent of its middle schoolers scored on grade level on state math assessments compared to 26 percent in the next-lowest performing...