September 23, 2016

Dr. Vitti: Stop using scare tactics and spreading a false narrative in the media! #recessmatters

Dr. Vitti,

I grow weary of your scare tactics in the media. The simple truth is: our students have everything to gain and nothing to lose if daily recess is added to the schedule.

There is time in the school day, and nothing needs to be, "lost." Your own staff has been able to demonstrate this. Over the summer a workshop was held after the Action for Healthy Kids Urban School Wellness Coalition rated DCPS's Wellness Plan merely, "Average" and specifically recommended Duval add recess to its school day.

DCPS staff members from various disciplines and levels worked together to develop an elementary school schedule that included recess. I myself put together multiple revised versions of our Master Schedule at your request, and was able to find time without the loss of art, music, science or any other offering.

Yet you continue to drive the false narrative through the press there is no time and if we add recess, something must go.

It's not rocket science. Other counties across the state of Florida have made time for recess and lost nothing. They offer art, music, science and even resources Duval does not have in its schedule. Some of these districts have a shorter school day than DCPS.

Duval has more instructional time than nearly any district in the state. But more is not necessarily better. Research has proven recess helps students absorb information and perform better academically.

In a recent Florida Times Union feature you stated you, "don't feel comfortable putting constraints on our teachers." I found it ironic, since you place enormous constraints on our teachers every day, micromanaging them to levels some consider obscene.

A formal recess policy would empower our teachers to follow their training and instincts about what is best for their students, rather than an arbitrary, egregious curriculum pacing guide. Teachers are desperate for a recess policy. They want it as much as parents do. I know because they tell me so every day. They stop me in the hallway of my child's school. They call me. Email me. Facebook message me. 

They all say the same thing, "Please keep fighting." And we will. 

Our own Board understands the importance of recess and wants to see it made mandatory. It has demonstrated it is prepared to do what is right. While all you have done is send emails giving, "permission" and "encouraging" recess, Board members recognize that is not enough.

Ms. Wright said, "I find the word, 'encouraged' problematic. Not everyone will do it."

Ms. Couch said, "It needs to be every day."

And Mr. Shine said he is not comfortable with the appearance recess is optional. He wants to see it required, stating, "We need a definitive, uniform policy."

Our Board wants recess. Our teachers wants recess. Parents want recess. Students want recess.

What is your real agenda in refusing to do what is right? Because I will admit I am baffled.

When it comes to mandated recess, the train has already left the station. DCPS has two choices: get on board, or race to catch up. I hope you make the choice that is best for our children.

Recess. In every school. In every classroom. For every elementary student. Every day.

Sign the petition to bring recess back to DCPS elementary schools!
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