Mayor Alvin Brown issued an executive order naming the first Education Commissioner for the City of Jacksonville.
The office is designed to serve as a bridge between City Hall and Duval County Public Schools with a mission to increase graduation rates and better prepare Jacksonville’s youths for the 21st Century job market. The office will have no executive powers over the school system but will serve a crucial supportive function to raise private money and rally community support at a time the schools are facing cutbacks.
“I campaigned on a promise to name an education commissioner who would work to build a bridge between the mayor’s office and the Duval County public school system,” Mayor Brown said. “This executive order carries through on that pledge.”
“Jacksonville must ensure access to a quality public education system that positions every child to compete in a global economy,” Mayor Brown said. “This position demonstrates my commitment to do that.”
The office will be privately funded and carries no taxpayer expense. Dr. Donnie Horner has been on loan from Jacksonville University since July 8 to serve as the city’s education commissioner. That means the university will continue to pay him while effectively donating his services to the city.
“Given the choice between standing on the sidelines or actively engaging for the betterment of our community’s education, I choose the latter,” Dr. Horner said. “It’s an honor to serve. We’re here to partner and have a clear goal. We want to have the best local education system in America.”
Mayor Brown maintains that education is a great equalizer and that students who achieve academically will be better poised to compete economically as adults.
Already, Mayor Brown and Dr. Horner have seen success in the public-private partnership. In early August, the two reached out to the private sector to raise more than $200,000 to save the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) programs at four Duval County public schools. The programs, which had a combined enrollment of 480, were being eliminated because of budget reductions.
“This is exactly what we’re trying to do,” Mayor Brown said. “We’ve spent a lot of time talking about the problems with the school system. We talk about the budget crunch. We debate whether sports programs should be eliminated. What we ought to be doing more of is looking for creative solutions and always keeping in mind that these young leaders are not dollar signs. They are our children.”