School Board honors Holley, hears comments on school start times

FORMER WALTON COUNTY School Board attorney Ben Holley was honored for his retirement with a plaque at the August 6 regular school board meeting. Pictured (l-r) Board member Kim Kirby, Chairman Bill Eddins, Ben Holley, board member Marsha Winegarner, board member Jason Catalano, board member Gail Smith, Superintendent Russell Hughes. (Courtesy of the Walton County School District)

By JENNA BAILEY

On August 6 the Walton County School Board (WCSB) met for a regular meeting at 5 p.m. at the Tivoli Administrative Complex in DeFuniak Springs. 

Opening Agenda — The meeting began with a presentation of a plaque to former WCSB attorney Ben Holley. The plaque was in honor of Holley’s retirement at the age of 80 and after 28 years serving as attorney for the school board. Holley thanked the board and Superintendent Russell Hughes and stated that he enjoyed his time as attorney for the board and wished them well. 

Following the announcement was approval of the minutes. The board approved the July 16, 3:15 p.m. workshop minutes; July 16,  4 p.m. workshop minutes; and July 16 regular meeting minutes. 

Consent Agenda — All items on the consent agenda were approved. 

Action Agenda — The first item on the action agenda was discussion by the council and a request for approval of the 2019-20 Mental Health Assistance Allocation Plan (MHAAP) for the Walton County School District (WCSD). The WCSD has developed a comprehensive and integrated multi-tiered system of supports (MTSS) utilizing the MTSS process to provide all students with the support necessary for success at school. MTSS is intended to help to improve school safety and mental health services for students with co-occurring mental health or substance abuse diagnoses and for students determined to be at-risk of such diagnoses initiating the process to identify, assess, treat and facilitate recovery. Discussing the plan with the Board was Director of Psychological & Mental Health Services, Randy Stafford, who supervises all student services and ESE (Exceptional Student Education) personnel department. 

FREEPORT CITY COUNCIL Seat 1 Member Amanda Green made a public comment at the Aug. 6 regular Walton County School Board meeting regarding morning drop-off traffic.

Board member Gail Smith asked a question regarding the program. “I just know with the state of affairs in our country with the mental health initiative, as we all recognize, whatever we can do in schools to put people in place that can promptly and adequately serve these children in whatever needs they have to move forward — we need that support. I know we’re doing so much with the safety piece of it, but I worry about the mental health piece of it,” Smith stated. 

In response Superintendent Hughes informed that the school district is addressing the mental health aspect with mental health counselors who work with mental health concerns so that guidance counselors can focus on guiding. The board approved this item.

The second item on the action agenda was a request for approval a Memorandum of Understanding between the WCSB and Florida Department of Health-Walton County-School Based Dental Programs. The board approved this item. Third, the board approved the amended 2019-20 school calendar. Fourth, the board approved a request for approval to advertise new School Board rules/policies. 

Safety & Security — First for Safety & Security, the board approved a resolution affirming WCSB participation in the Emerald Coast Crime Stoppers Program and Fortify FL Program. Second, a request for approval of contract for the School Resource Deputy (SRD) Program between the WCSB and the Walton County Sheriff’s Office for the 2019-20 school year. Final for this section of the meeting, the board approved of the FSSP School District Access and Use Agreement.

Finance Dept. — The Finance Dept. section of the meeting began with the approval of the Seaside Neighborhood School & Foundation June financial reports and the June Walton Academy financial statements. Third, the board approved the 2019-20 Take Stock in Children Contract. Fourth, the board gave approval to utilize the 2018-19 salary schedules as status quo schedules subject to the Collective Bargaining process. Fifth, a request for approval of K-12 Insight for Let’s Talk Services from August 6, 2019 to August 6, 2020. For Finance Dept. the board also approved the Milk Bid Renewal for 2019-20; Food Services Agreements between WCSB and Walton Academy 2019-20; and Universal Free Breakfast. 

Human Resources Dept.— The Human Resources section of the meeting began with board approval of the August 6, 2019 personnel recommendations and personnel addendum. Additionally for this section, the board approved the American Fidelity to serve as the Section 125 and Flexible Spending Account Administrator for the WCSB; Telemedicine Service with 1-800 MD for 2019-20; health risk assessments and biometric screenings; Educational Management Consultant Services, Inc, (EMCS) contract for consultant services related to Student Services; EMCS contract for consultant services related to Emerald Coast Technical College; and EMCS contract for consultant services related to Freeport High School (FHS).

Curriculum & Construction Dept. — In Curriculum & Construction the School Board gave approval for the WCSD equity report for 2018-19; WCSD Guidance and Counseling plan for 2019-20; 2019-20 K-12 Uniform Assessment calendar; and Professional Learning Catalog. 

Facilities & Construction Dept. — The city of Freeport was awarded a Safe Routes to School Grant to construct a sidewalk along the East side of old U.S. 331 from SR-20 to the Freeport Village Apartments. The purpose of this sidewalk project is to provide a safe route for students to walk to school. The grant funding for this project is allocated for the state’s 2020-2021 budget cycle. The board approved this item. Second, a request for approval of Peace Pond Easement for Walton County Public Works to maintain drainage site. 

Due to excessive rainfall approximately through the years 2013 – 2016, the WCSB, Walton County Board of County of Commissioners (BCC) , and Northwest Florida Water Management District combined efforts to address flooding/drainage issues as a direct result of rain. The school board and BCC agreed that Walton County Public Works would construct and maintain a drainage site in connection with Peace Pond. This drainage site is located on school board property, east of Van R. Butler Elementary School. The board approved this request. 

Additionally in Curriculum & Construction, the WCSD was contacted by the Walton County Public Works and Charles Rigdon with MH Forest View, LLC., for the need of a traffic signal at the intersection of MC Davis Boulevard and U.S. 98 East. 

The anticipated result of the traffic signal installation is to address the possible high volume of traffic that could be generated by Dune Lakes Elementary School, Walton County Sports Complex, and Forest View Apartments. The BCC has passed a resolution approving the installation of a traffic signal for this intersection. A letter of commitment was provided by Charles Rigdon with MH Forest View, LLC approving the traffic signal.  A resolution by the WCSB would be the final approval needed to complete the commitment of all three parties to move forward with the construction of traffic signal at the MC Davis Boulevard intersection. The board gave approval to share construction cost for the traffic signal. 

Public Comment — For public comments Freeport City Council Seat 1 Member Amanda Green addressed the school board to request the board’s consideration to alter Freeport Middle School and Freeport Elementary School start times to relieve traffic backup during morning drop-off. “There’s great stress on our road systems, parents, our commuters and our businesses for these schools to be starting within 15 minutes of each other,” stated Green. Green described the traffic problems that occur during Freeport commuters’ morning routine as a result of the drop-off time complications. The board thanked Green for her comment and responded that the topic may be discussed at a future time.