Schools In District 5 Are Thriving

Vicki-Elaine Felder


ORLANDO – As high school students across Orange County prepare for end-of-year tests, I am just thrumming with pride about our District 5 schools and students. We have come so far.

The district I represent includes much of Orlando’s urban core along the I-4 corridor. In 2000, Orange County’s traditional high schools graduated 49.5 percent of our students. In 2023, we graduated 95.5 percent.

That’s a breathtaking increase, and those additional diplomas improve the lives of our students as they go to college, the military or the workforce and start families in our community. At all three of the high schools I represent – Dr. Phillips, Jones and Oak Ridge – the graduation rate is over 90 percent.

Another key measure of performance is school grades. And this year, every last one of our schools in District 5 earned an A, B or C grade from the state Department of Education. That reflects the hard work of our students, teachers, principals and district administrators who prioritize supporting public schools. As a former teacher, I know that excellence is truly a team effort.

I’m also proud to say that every school in my district is either new or has been renovated or replaced since 2000. This wouldn’t be possible without our voters in Orange County. They approved a half-cent sales tax to fund school construction in 2002 and continued it in 2014. But some of these buildings are now over two decades old and need to be updated. That’s why we are asking voters November 5 to continue the funding for our schools for an additional 10 years.

Education is not one-size-fits-all in District 5. Parents and students have excellent choices. Those include the medical magnet at Jones High, the 3DE by Junior Achievement magnet at Oak Ridge High and both the Center for International Studies and the Visual and Performing Arts magnets at Dr. Phillips High.

This year, the Visual and Performing Arts magnet was the only OCPS program to be named a Magnet School of Excellence by Magnet Schools of America. Last year, the Center for International Studies magnet was the only one in the district to earn that distinction.

We also reach every type of learner. Jones offers a full slate of advanced courses through its International Baccalaureate Programme. And 100 Black Men provides mentors and college scholarships.

The arts offerings at Jones also have a national profile. Led by their first female band director, Jones alumna Naomi Nelson, the drumline accompanied Mickey Mouse in the halftime show at the 2023 Florida Classic, and the Jazz Band and drumline were featured in Clare and the Chocolate Nutcracker at the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center. The Jones Concert Choir participated in Walt Disney World’s Candlelight Processional and their Master Singers performed at Camping World Stadium to kick off the Pop-Tarts Bowl.

And through Orange Technical College, we are training our future health care workforce. Newly renovated classrooms on our main campus include a dental suite, a robotic body and an operating room where students can practice surgery and patient care. And Orange Technical College – South offers welding courses and training for careers in the transportation, manufacturing, culinary and hospitality fields. Their campus will also be refreshed in the coming years.

It’s hard to believe we’re nearly there, but it’s also time to plan for graduation. Every spring, OCPS recognizes Super Scholars, students who are admitted to one or more of the nation’s top 20 national universities, liberal arts colleges or service academies. Nine students in District 5 received 16 admissions to these outstanding institutions.

And we’re creating thousands of graduates who will contribute greatly to our community.

Take Oak Ridge High School’s Laura Narcisse, she plans to become a mental health counselor as a way of paying back the support she received from mentors and counselors over the years. Narcisse not only maintains stellar academics, she works part-time at Target.

This student is also a proud and dedicated member of the National Honor Society, a member of the Elevate Orlando mentoring program, and Oak Ridge’s Senior Class of 2024 Council Committee. She spends countless hours volunteering at a local women’s shelter, mentoring elementary students through Elevate Orlando and with Oak Ridge’s Environmental Science Club. There are many students like her in our District 5 schools.

An OCPS education is such an excellent value, and our whole community should be proud.

Signing off from District 5, where the talent resides.

Vicki-Elaine Felder is a School Board Member representing District 5.