There are about four dozen Laboratory Schools throughout the United States, five of which are in Florida. Beginning next school year, a new Lab School can be added to this list—and the location will be right here in Pensacola.
What is a Lab School?
A Lab School is a learning institution affiliated with a University for the purpose of improving teaching pedagogy by utilizing cutting edge teaching techniques refined onsite. Theoretically, this results in improved educational outcomes for all students who will eventually be taught by teachers trained in this setting. Most Lab Schools in the United States, like the University of Memphis’ Campus School, focus on the primary grades. Some, like UCSD’s Preuss School, focus on grades 6-12. For our Escambia County lab school, the grades served will be PreK-5.
Background--Why a University School in Pensacola?
The question was not “Why?” but rather “Why not?” With a University in town that turns out a substantial number of our district’s teachers, and with a pressing need to develop modalities to reach the rising number of local school children of poverty and non-traditional family structures-- why would we not consider a lab school here?
Pressing the Idea Forward
Shortly after my election to the Escambia County School Board, I began to discuss the idea of a University/District partnership with family, friends, and the previous school board member for District 1, Circuit Court Judge Gary Bergosh. In the fall of 2007, I approached then Superintendent Jim Paul with the idea. He was receptive, so I initiated meetings with the leadership of UWF in November of that year. After meeting with the UWF Dean of the Education Department, Dr. Don Chu, and several of his top faculty and staff members in December of 2007, I realized there was broad support for a Lab School in Pensacola.
I brought the idea of the University Campus School to the full School Board at the regular workshop meetings in January and February of 2008, and the consensus from the board at that time was that the idea was solid and should be pursued. In the spring of 2008, I met and spoke with the Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum, Mr. Paul Fetsko, on numerous occasions to pitch the idea. He was receptive and interested.
Mr. Fetsko, Superintendent Thomas, and the leadership at UWF have been refining the idea and pressing the plan forward ever since this time.
Astonishingly, even in the midst of one of the worst economic climates since the Great Depression, the concept of the UWF/ECSD university school partnership has thrived. The best news is that this school will be a reality beginning in the 2010-2011 school year.
The Lab School in Pensacola, Florida
The Lab School locally will be a hybrid lab school—one that is not actually on the University campus and one that is not completely controlled by the college. Initially, this facility will be a professional development center, with a vision of UWF taking the reins in three to five years from inception. Our local version will be located at Lincoln Park Elementary School, and the focus of the school will be the development of ways to improve academic achievement among students of poverty and other difficult social/family circumstances. Having the site of the campus at Lincoln Park enables the school district to keep that facility open, even in the face of a rapidly decreasing student population at that location. UWF benefits from this location in many ways as well, and several grants have been submitted by UWF to pursue this partnership.
All of the dedicated, hard working staffs of both UWF and the ECSD that have focused on this project for over two years are worthy of thanks and congratulations; Their efforts have made this project a reality. This school will be a boost for our district, our teachers, our student teachers, our community, and our University---but most importantly this facility will benefit our most valuable and precious community members, our students.
I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.