School Board approves final budget amendments, hears Paxton School Phase 1 Project update

DIRECTOR OF FACILITIES JILL SMITH gave a project update for the Paxton School Phase 1 project.


The Walton County School Board held its regular meeting on June 29, 2023, at the Tivoli Complex/Board Room. A public hearing was held for the Code of Conduct to be adopted, as well as the Student Progression Plan. No one commented on either and both were approved. 

The VPK (Voluntary Prekindergarten Education Program) contract with ELC (Early Learning Coalition was approved. As well as the FES (Freeport Elementary School), MSE (Maude Saunders Elementary), VRB (Van R Butler Elementary), MHS (Mossy Head School) WDE (West DeFuniak Elementary) 2023-2024 Early Learning Coalition (ELC) SPICE Contract. And Freeport Middle School.

Emerald Coast Technical College’s (ECTCs) use of FLDOE’s Specialized Career Instruction Course Codes to be used in ECTC’s Pathways Academy for adult students with significant cognitive/learning disabilities was approved. 

The board approved Northeast Florida Educational Consortium (NEFEC) Contract for Comprehensive School Board Policy Updating Services. These updates are provided two times a year: one update following Legislative Session, usually September or October after DOE/SBE issue interpretations or rules and the second, if needed, will be provided in February or March.

The board approved Colonial Life to serve as Section 125/Flexible Spending and Voluntary Insurance product administrator for the 23/24 Insurance Plan Year beginning 10/1/2023. 

Approval was given to join the Group Health Employee Benefits Program through the PAEC Risk Management Consortium for the insurance plan year effective October 1, 2023. The health insurance program will be moving from a fully insured plan to a self-insured plan through PAEC beginning on October 1, 2023.  There will be no change to the health insurance carrier nor the specific plan offerings to Walton County School District employees. 

The board approved the final budget amendments as of June 27, 2023. 

Personnel Recommendations and the Homeless Facilitator Job Description were approved. 

Student Affiliation Agreement Between the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences and Walton County School District was approved. This affiliation agreement provides the opportunity for University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences students to complete fieldwork, clinical experiences, and/or clinical practicum experiences in Walton County School District. 

An agreement between Nova Southeastern University and Walton County School District was made. It provides the opportunity for Nova Southeastern University speech language pathology students to complete clinical education, fieldwork and internships in Walton County School District.

A Clinical Education Agreement between the University of South Alabama and the Walton County School Board was approved. It provides the opportunity for University of South Alabama Speech Pathology and Audiology students to complete clinical experiences in Walton County School District.

Approval was given to purchase Edgenuity Courseware for the 2023-2024 School Year for $41,800.00. The courseware is described as “Initial credit and credit recovery courses that adapt to each student’s unique learning journey. [D]ynamic, customizable courses help students in grades 6–12 maximize their potential.”

A contract between Florida State University and Walton County School Board for the year 23-24 was agreed upon. It is for (10) student evaluations/re-evaluations through the FSU multidisciplinary center. The school board will identify 10 students, from pre-school through 12th grade, for diagnostic and consultation services. They will be identified as not adequately evaluated in regular classrooms, or who are experiencing severe learning or behavioral problems. 

Approval was given to purchase Edmentum Courseware for the 2023-2024 School Year for $5,601.75. This purchases the program license. 

An agreement with Ethica, LLC for FedNet was approved for $16,500.00. “FedNet provides training and technical assistance designed to support low-income students’ positive outcomes, including migratory students, students experiencing homelessness, and students who are neglected, delinquent, or otherwise at academic risk. The Network assists district-level administrators and school-based administrators in implementing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA). The goal of FedNet is that overall services to these students will be enhanced and that increased student performance will result.” Further, “Ethica LLC possesses professional federal grant management administrator skills and education management experience that can assist the DISTRICT in carrying out its duties under the Education Department General Administrative Regulations, Uniform Grant Guidance, and the various requirements of the federal coronavirus relief funds.”

An agreement with Ethica, LLC for CARESNet was made for $10,500.00. “CARESNet will provide training and technical assistance designed to support the best, allowable uses of funds provided by the US Congress for response to, and recovery from the impact of, COVID-19 on K-12 education. Because these funds are large and both needs and expenditures are wide-ranging, planning and management requires vigilant administration.” 

A comprehensive school guidance and counseling plan for the coming year was approved, as well as a cooperative agreement between the school board of Walton County and Early Learning Coalition of the Emerald Coast and Teenage Parent Programs (TAPP). 

A contract to provide Occupational Therapy services to ESE students which includes evaluations & IEP development, along with direct therapy services according to the Individualized Education Plan. This is funded by Medicaid. 

The contract between the Speech Lab, LLC and Walton County School Board was approved. The Speech Lab, LLC provides direct speech-language therapy services provided by licensed Speech-Language Pathologists and/or Speech-Language Pathology Assistants, to include evaluations & IEP development, to students per Individualized Education Plans.  

The K12 Online Educational Products and Services Order Amendment was approved for 2023-24. This is an extension of the current Online Educational Products and Services Order. The end date will be June 30, 2024. This amendment amends the K12 Online Educational Products and Services Order signed 7/8/2021. 

Approval was given to Purchase Albert Licenses for the 2023-2024 School Year for $30,330.00. It is described as “support all academic programs for secondary schools. All content is aligned to Florida NGSSS and BEST Standards and included in a simple licensing model that will save your district money.” 

Approval of the 2023-2024 Florida District Franchise Agreement by and between Florida Virtual School and The School Board of Walton County. 

Approval was given to renew an EES (Enrollment for Education Solutions from Microsoft) agreement that will allow the District to have the ability to continuously upgrade Microsoft Windows Operating Systems, Microsoft Office Suite and Cloud Storage for staff and students. The cost is $123,213.72.

Contingency Modification #7 for Freeport Middle School with Culpepper Construction in the amount of -$107,611.13 was approved. 

School District Director of Facilities Jill Smith gave a project update for the Paxton School Phase 1 project. She said they are a little behind schedule. They went to bid on May 25 on the project and received no response from electricians, so they rebid the project. They are evaluating where they are on service contracts, which are under $4 million and below, and are currently exceeding that number. She said she hoped to bring back a GMP (guaranteed maximum price) by August 1 and are working with architects, contractors, and subs to get some options to move the project forward. 

Approval was given for the use of school owned facilities by CHELCO for post-storm staging for work crews. They plan on using the DeFuniak Springs Little League Park (excluding the two developed Little League Ball Fields), and the area east of the West DeFuniak Elementary School. The purpose of this agreement is to allow CHELCO to stage restoration facilities that will be required if our area is impacted by a major weather event (i.e., hurricane) that would require a large number of assisting restoration crews. 

The Florida Department of Agriculture Forestry Service entered into an agreement with the Walton School District for a wildfire hazard mitigation agreement to mow areas in close proximity or adjoining residential communities. 

Approval was given for Northwest Florida State College (NWFSC) Articulation Agreement Amendment for the 2023-2024 School Year. The Amendment will allow a special pilot program for Walton High School students who have a GPA of 2.5-2.99 to try a dual enrollment class.

This year’s Administrative Institute will be held at the Doubletree Hotel in Tallahassee.  This is a one-day add on to the annual PAEC Leadership Conference.  The Administrative Institute is an annual meeting for principals, assistant principals, administrative TSAs, and deans. The purpose of the meeting is to recalibrate the Superintendent’s vision for the upcoming school year.  The contract is for both meeting space and food. Food costs will be reimbursed to the WCSD by FASA, the Florida Association of School Administrators. The board approved. 

Walton County School District 2023-2024 Student Handbooks were approved. 

Dr. J. Hawthorne gave an “Let’s Talk” End of the Year Presentation. The past year there were 3285 customers who used the service mostly by parents or guardians. The top topic was Freeport Elementary. The contract is to be revisited and renewed on July 18, 2023. 

Superintendent Russell Hughes announced that Walton County Schools were now only 19 points away from being #2 in the state.