Ed Pratt Dannals Pic
Ed Pratt-Dannals
UNF Degree: M.Ed – ’81; BT – ’94
Employment: Superintendent, Duval County Public Schools

Pratt-Dannals takes non-traditional road to superintendent

When some educators begin their careers in teaching they have aspirations of eventually entering administration and even becoming superintendents. Not Ed Pratt-Dannals. He entered education via a non-traditional road, helping young people who had dropped out of school.

Pratt-Dannals, who is superintendent of the Duval County Public Schools, started out in Atlanta working with high school dropouts. Even after moving to Jacksonville, he worked at the community college level encouraging dropouts to return to get their General Educational Development or GED degrees. "I came at education more from the standpoint of youth development and finding ways for young people to be successful. Teaching was one way to do that."

When Pratt-Dannals entered education he never intended to become a superintendent, in fact he wasn't even sure he wanted to be in administration. As a teacher, he said he never had problems with students but more often had difficulty with the attitude of adults. "A principal can have a great impact on the attitude in a school."

Nevertheless, with the help of a UNF master's degree, Pratt-Dannals succeeded in the world of administration as an assistant principal, principal, regional superintendent and associate superintendent before stepping into the top position in October of 2007. Now after more than 30 years of educational experience, Pratt-Dannals faces some of the most challenging and potentially most rewarding issues of his career.

While earning his master's degree at UNF, Pratt-Dannals obtained dual certification - in administration and in guidance. He said the focus on administration gave him the needed knowledge in finance and school organization. The focus on guidance gave him communication skills to work with people. "A whole lot of what I do as superintendent is communicating with people."

These two areas of knowledge eventually propelled him to a position in which he is responsible for the education of 125,000 students by more than 14,000 teachers while administering a $1.8 billion budget. But it is more than just numbers to Pratt-Dannals. He has a broader perspective of his job. "We are the bedrock which will determine whether or not as a city we move forward."

While Pratt-Dannals is very familiar with the problems facing the Duval Public Schools he is also able to place them in the context with problems facing all major urban public school systems, a focus of his Ph. D. studies at the University of Florida. "The top 50 school districts in terms of size teach more than half the students in the nation. Typically they have more poverty and higher minority populations. These districts have to work if our country is to work."

That's where UNF comes in, according to Dannals, who has an extensive record collaborating with the University's College of Education and Human Services. He is very familiar with the educational resources available in Jacksonville since as an administrator he was the primary contact between the school district and the area's colleges and universities. He sees a specific role for UNF in the future. "I'd love to see UNF become the premier training center for urban teachers and principals in the Southeast. I think we could partner with the University to make that happen."

Pratt-Dannals knows the training he received at UNF and the collaboration he will enjoy in the future will go a long way in determining the future success of the Duval County Public Schools. "I believe things happen for a reason. I was meant to be at this point at this time especially with the budget issues we face. I probably know the system better than anyone and can maneuver our way through these challenges."

Although the demands of his job don't give Pratt-Dannals a great deal of leisure time, he enjoys relaxing with his wife Jo on their boat. The couple has two children: a son Chris and a daughter Kate.

Despite the demands of the job, Pratt Dannals has no regrets about taking the non-traditional approach to becoming a superintendent. "I never had a burning desire to be a superintendent. My goal has always been to make a contribution in any way I can to making this district better for our students. "