The Jackson County School Board met for a workshop on Thursday before their regular meeting on Tuesday the 18th. After opening remarks, the Pledge of Allegiance, recognition was given to several students and a teacher and those are covered under separate articles in this week’s edition of the TIMES.
Citizen’s request to speak
The first order of business was the open floor requests from citizens to air their concerns. In the workshop, Mrs. Betty Duffee, a retired science teacher with the Jackson County School system and former Jackson County School Board member addressed the board in reference to two items. First thing Mrs. Duffee addressed during her Citizen’s request, “I have been in education for a long time, too long you might say. I am here today for two items that I’d like to bring before the board. One of them is that I’ve heard rumors that there will be movement of biology to the eighth grade. I hope that that doesn’t happen. Today in my mailbox I still get the American Biology Teacher and all anyone has to do is to look at this and see the difficulty of biology. That is one reason, it is difficult. When I was teaching biology at Marianna High School, we had biology in the eleventh grade. It was because they had had the physical science where they had physical science where they had some physics. Then they had chemistry in the tenth grade and when they got to biology they were ready for some things such as protein sensitives, and mitosis and those items that are difficult for children. And another thing at the eighth-grade level, most children are not able to grasp the relevancy of the systems and how they relate to each other so I humbly request that you not let that happen.”
Mrs. Duffee addressed a second item in reference to an agenda item concerning the assignment of school principals and directors. Mrs. Duffee said, “And the other item I am here today about and I’m sad and I’m angry. This system needs some changes. When we had an election, I worked very hard to see that we had a change in administration at that time and it happened. I have seen no changes coming forth as far as administrators in schools and everybody is aware of what is going on and know that there should be some changes and the quicker they are done the better for everybody concerned. This community is angry because they thought we’d have changes and they’re disappointed. There are some people in this community that are angry at me which I can accept because they thought that we were going to get a change. When there are 40 people that leave a school system in a matter of a couple of years, that’s taking a lot of experience away from that school. Experience matters. It matters. Look at kindergarten classes at Golson and at least half of those are inexperienced teachers. Those children are getting their first impression of school that first year. And when parents tell me that their child cries and begs them to home school them, something is wrong and I don’t know of anything that we can do about it but I believe that if I were a principal of a school and the people of the community were that unhappy with me, I’d turn in my resignation and I’d go on over to where my husband was. That’s what I have to say today.”
Stacy Goodson asked for any other citizen request. Dave Galloway related his concern about April being designated School Library month due to the fact that most library/media centers are shut down for testing. He further related concerns about the teachers not having their assignments for next year, the staffing plan and it was unfair to teachers to not know if they were returning to the classroom or not.
In the Tuesday board meeting, attorney Fred Flowers spoke to the board in reference to a recent event that occurred at Graceville High School. He expressed his concern that the punishment for the offense was excessive and made reference to what he referred to as a more serious offense that occurred last year when the ‘offense’ was overlooked, rather than a 90-day suspension given. The board advised Mr. Flowers that they could not discuss specifics but that the board attorney, Mr. Matt Fuqua would be in touch with him.
Goodson thanked those speaking for their time and concern.
Board member Chris Johnson asked about programs such as Golson’s summer enrichment program, “I think we’ve said this several times before, and I know Golson holds a summer enrichment program. Does Sneads have one? Could Grand Ridge have one? Graceville? Is it just something that schools take initiative to do? I think maybe the east or west side would be good.” Superintendent Larry Moore said, “I think some of the other schools did at one time. I can’t remember now but it’s been a long time.”
Johnson said he thought it might help those students that might need that little extra time. They may not be learning anything extra special over the summer. He said, “They’ll be getting that extra classroom curriculum training. That’s something I’d like us to look at.”
New programs offered for upcoming seniors
Phyllis Daniels took the floor to discuss a new program she has moved forward on after bringing the proposal to the board last year about this time, “We had a plan that we wanted to implement to provide our students with additional opportunities through Career and Tech Ed. We had an opportunity to use Florida Panhandle Technical and Chipola College. We’ve done a survey, we had infrastructure in place to transport students to those two institutions and help them get back to their schools to complete the courses they need. But when August came the reality of it was the majority of the scheduled list of classes that are required for graduation which include economics and English were in the morning and so it just didn’t pan out. So, this year we have explored another opportunity and program entitled “Building Construction Technology” which includes every manufacturing and fabrication type skill except welding, that a person would need. Plumbing, framing, carpentry, electrician, H-VAC, all of those skills are embedded in that one program. So I went to all high schools, and took a survey, and with the standards of those programs and asked those students to take it home. I spoke to the rising seniors, so the juniors this year is who I spoke to. The way we proposed the program was the student relied on us for transportation to the class which would be at the old Marianna High Ag building. Mr. Wiggins and Mr. Moore met me there and looked at the infrastructure and it seemed suitable for that. There is a classroom and there are people currently in it, but Mr. Wiggins assured me there would opportunity to house those people somewhere if we need to go that route. So I went to the schools and explained the program to them, if they depended on us for transportation we would provide those required core classes through virtual instruction and those students would have lunch, and for three hours be in that ‘Building Construction Technology” program. So it would really be kind of like a mini technical college, which is what it would kind of be formed like. I gave the surveys to the students explaining, gave them my telephone number, and asked them to return that survey at the end of that week and that we would compile it. Throughout the district, I had five returned. That really broke my heart because I thought the program was pretty good. Here are the two main barriers that I think that’s keeping these type programs from growing. Number one: I hate to make a generality but I’m going to, the majority of students that would be interested in a program like this are not going to thrive on virtual instruction. Number two: Most high school students especially seniors would rather be at their school, I get that. We just don’t have the means to provide a program like that at every high school. This was a means to provide it or at least to make the opportunity available to all of our students. Now we did have a couple of students when I was talking to them they said “well”, one kid in particular from Malone, a high performing student who had dual enrolled up to this point and intends on dual enrolling next year as a senior. He said, “Well I’ll come to Malone first period, I’m going to go to Chipola and take a class, and then I’m going to come here, instead of OJT in the afternoon next year, I’m going to come to this program.” So he had a plan, and if they did not need to depend on the district for transportation, then I said to them, get your classes at your school and then come here by the time this Building Construction program starts and we could work that out no problem. The fact of the matter is those two barriers I think are greater than the enticement of that program. I can assure you that I don’t like to lose and in a way, I kind of felt defeated about that but I won’t stay defeated. I may not win that game but I can play another one. I’m looking at another potentially enticing program that I think we could take to every school, and we have the infrastructure already built in and we want to move a little bit further on that. I’ll bring you up to date on the possibility of that as well. We just want you to know were doing our best to try to find additional opportunities for our students.”
School board member Dr. Terry Nichols asked, “For funding situations how many students do you think would be a feasible number to be able to make the thing work?” Daniels said, “Mr. Moore and I discussed that and to me it’s one of those chicken or egg things. When Chipola started the engineering program, they had the whole program lined up before they had students. I don’t think we have that luxury but I think if we had 10, we can start it I think if they would start getting excited about it then and they talk about it, then other people start to hear about it. I think the first bunch is going to be the hardest bunch, whatever that magic number is, I think will be the hardest bunch to get because it’s something so different than what we’ve done.” Nichols inquired again, “Do you think 10 would do it?” Daniels discussed the issues with FTE and its effect on the program. You got to have a teacher, and to teach that program they could be locally certified and district certified because it’s a specialty area. It would just require some funding to have the tools that you would need for that particular program.” Mr. Moore and I, and even Mr. Wiggins looked around and the building would need a little bit of refurbishing.” Daniels said with that thought they quickly realized that would be a perfect first project for the class. In response to Dr. Nichols’ question, Daniels said, “So I don’t really know how to answer your question.”
Nichols suggested to Daniels to utilize the services of the workforce development board, adding that there were lots of grants that are being used that aren’t school related but outside of the school.
In response to certified teachers/instructors, Daniels said, “They have to be certified but it’s a district certification. Non-degreed vocational certification. The district is allowed to issue if they meet the job experience requirements, and then there are some things they have to do.”
Daniels said, “We’re going to make a decision on whether this flies or not before this school year is done. “The interest from students and their parents is going to play a large role in the way the county goes. If parents and their students show interests in this program, the school district is prepared to pursue the implementation. We’d love to have at least 20 students in the program, we’d love to have so many that we’d need two teachers instead of one.”
No action was taken but Daniels will bring back any additional results she has on students interested in the program.