Duval County Public Schools board awards former principal $480,000 consultant contract

James Young

Duval County Public Schools has committed to paying nearly half a million dollars to a consultant to help eight under-performing schools.

That consulting company’s CEO is a former DCPS principal.

Three of the eight schools are at risk of being taken over by an outside company if their grades don’t improve.

Turnaround Solutions, Inc. has until the end of the school year to make a difference.

“They need to improve this school because this school is on TV all the time. This school and two other schools are the worst schools,” said Lee Hightower, who has two grandchildren at Lake Forest Elementary. “I want my grandkids to have an education. I finished school. I want them to finish school.”

Lake Forest Elementary, Northwestern Middle and Matthew Gilbert Middle could be run by an outside company in the future if the D-rated schools don’t improve.

The school board approved a $480,000 contract with Turnaround Solutions to raise the grades of those three schools, plus five more: Arlington Heights Elementary, Arlington Middle, George Washington Carver Elementary, Gregory Drive Elementary and Ramona Elementary.

For the 3,901 students enrolled in those eight schools, the cost of the contract breaks down to $123 per student.

“It’s federal funding. And a lot of folks are going to think about, 'well gosh, what about the budget shortfall issues?' But this is a different category of money that can’t be used for the same purposes,” said school board member Scott Shine.

According to the school district, the principals at the eight schools listed in the contract average only two years of experience in their roles.

Turnaround Solutions is run by James Young, the former Jean Ribault High School principal who turned it around from an F-school to an A-school in three years.

As principal, Young also turned Pine Estates Elementary from an F-school to a C-school in three years.

He also turned Rufus Payne Elementary from an F-school to a B-school in his three years as principal.

But Shine said he has new concerns after voting in favor of the contract.

Shine told Action News Jax he has questions about the other former school district employees that Young plans to bring on board.

“I was unaware of the personal relationships some of these folks had with people in the district,” Shine said.

The contract states that Turnaround Solutions is required to disclose the names of any officers, directors, agents or employees who were employed by DCPS within the past two years.