By ALICIA LEONARD
The Walton County School Board (WCSB) met on the afternoon of Feb. 18, following three workshops about school related items. Opening up the meeting, two presentations were given to the board. The first, an aerial photograph of DeFuniak Springs presented by Walton Middle School(WMS) teacher Cathy Mosley and Terry Dawkins, CEO of Gulf Power.
The second presentation was to the Walton Career Development Center with an AT&T grant for $2,000. Michelle Doggett on behalf of the Walton Education Foundation, presented the grant to the Walton Career Development Center Instructor that applied for the grant, Thomas Barton, alongside an AT&T representative Ray Walker.
The board then moved to approve the agenda before them as well as adopt minutes from previous meetings and workshops unanimously. Board Chair Faye Leddon called for public comments, with none forthcoming, the board moved onto the Consent portion of the agenda.
Under the Consent agenda were requests for student trips, which the board approved 5-0.
Under the Action portion of the agenda, the board approved financial summaries and budget amendments, along with an amendment for the Seaside Charter School, 5-0.
Personnel recommendations were approved 5-0, as well as the 2014 Pre-K/Early Intervention Implementation Plan.
The board then moved to approve the district’s Evaluation Committee Member list, and an application for a technology grant for rural school districts for bandwidth support.
Under Facilities and Construction, the board approved the pre-qualification of contractors, 5-0. The board decided to table a decision on relocating students from WMS to the Wise Center til the March 1, board meeting. (Readers can see more about the WMS project and projected costs in this week’s edition under WCSB discusses WMS project expenses).
The board also approved land appraisals for a second piece of property in south Walton. The 60-acre tract is located north of Emerald Coast Middle School and scored second in line for possible building sites, by the site selection committee. Board member Sharon Roberts recused herself from voting on the property, saying her family had been contacted about easements with the property and she was concerned it might cause a conflict of interest. The board approved the appraisals 4-0.
The board then moved to approve amendments to the construction of the Walton High Athletic Complex, due to surplus materials and such, 5-0.
Although the meeting had moved swiftly up to this point, the agenda item concerning school calenders drew out concerns among board members, most notably, board member Mark Davis. Davis said he took issue with the amount of time, 36 hours, of Professional Development for teachers. Specifically, Davis found issue with the number of half-days scheduled on the calender and the issue it caused parents when trying to juggle child care.
“Do you really need 36 hours of professional development?” Davis asked Calendar Committee members. When the members responded that they were trying to get as close as possible to the 40-hour maximum, Davis responded, “what about we try to get as close as possible to the minimum?”
He continued, “Parents have to get a substitute arrangement on Friday for a teacher work day or a professional day, and then they have to turn around and do it on Monday for a holiday we get off and most of them don’t get off. So, you are just absolutely killing them. We can’t do this. This is impossible.”
Committee members responded they had tried to attach the half days leading up to long weekends, such as holiday weekends.
“This is an impossible schedule for parents. I’m going to ask the board to reject the schedule and ask you all to go back and have only 20 hours of professional development at the most,” Davis responded.
Board member Gail Smith said these days were important for teachers to develop their skills. Davis responded he had not met many teachers that viewed the time spent in professional development as helpful.
Roberts agreed with Davis saying, “We are killing working parents,” and asked the committee to consider letting kids out a week earlier than than Dec. 22 for Christmas vacation, saying many cannot wait that long to make plans for holidays and travel that late. “That is not an ideal situation for our community in my opinion.”
Davis said they were not required by the state to have any professional development. “There is a scale that we get points for, but there is no financial penalty for not making those scales as I understand it.” He continued, “Look, I agree we need professional development, but the way it is spread out, 40 hours is punishing parents for them to get professional development.”
Leddon chimed in, “I agree with Mr. Davis and Mrs. Roberts. I’ve heard comments from teachers too that they don’t really get, maybe what you all are trying to do out of these professional days. And don’t shoot the messengers because this is what we are getting. We have to listen to them, too.”
Walton County School Superintendent Carlene Anderson said, “We cannot afford it, but we should extend our teacher calender. Let them come in the summer or prior to the school year. It would be better, but we can’t afford to pay teachers an additional six and a half days.” Anderson asked the board to ask teachers to call her and tell her they didn’t get anything from the professional development. Davis responded, “They’re not going to do that.” Anderson responded, “No they’re not, because they know I will tell them they need professional development.”
Board member Dennis Wallace asked if the board was going to come up with a better plan before he voted. “I hate to table things, but I have to know if we can come up with a better product and everyone will be happy. I wonder if we might be beating this to death for several meetings?”
Davis floated an idea for holding the professional development days for a week in the fall and the winter, “Then parents could plan a whole week at a time, and take those vacations and do those plans.”
Anderson reminded the board that whole days would require extensions of the school year, where half-days still count as full student days….
Read the full story in the Feb. 27, 2014 edition of the Herald Breeze.
By ALICIA LEONARD