Story by STACY MARTIN
On Tuesday, June 14, the Walton County School Board held a regular board meeting at the South Walton High School media center. In attendance were Deputy Superintendent Dr. Jennifer Hawthorne, Board Chairman Jason Catalano, and board members Kim Kirby, William “Bill” Eddins, Jeri Michie, and Tammy Smith. The board began with the approval of the consent agenda and regular agenda, moving two items from consent to the regular agenda.
On the action agenda was a request to approve the Walton County School Board and Pancare to perform sports physicals. The board approved the request unanimously.
The next item was an approval request for contracted services agreement for DOT Certified school bus driver physicals and DeFuniak All Care Walk-In Clinic. The council approved the request unanimously with a motion from Kirby, seconded by Smith.
Hawthorne then made a recommendation for the approval of the Early Learning Coalition School Readiness contract. Motion for approval was made by Smith and seconded by Kirby. The motion carried unanimously.
The fourth item was for the approval of the VPK Provider Contract for the 2021-22 school year and the State of Florida’s Office of Early Learning. The board approved the request unanimously.
In the last item of the action agenda, the board approved the request unanimously to advertise amendments to school board rules and policies related to school construction bids.
The Safety and Security department requested to approve the Walton County School District Safety and Security Initiatives. The board approved the request.
Next was a request to approve the updated list of Walton County School District Safety Taskforce members. Motion for approval was made by Michie and seconded by Eddins, and the motion carried.
The third item was a request to approve the updated Walton County School District Reunification Plan. The board voted in favor of the request unanimously.
The next item was a request for the approval of the updated Walton County School District Drill Guide. The board approved the request unanimously.
The last item was a request to approve an interlocal agreement between Walton County and the Walton County School District for the Walton High School standby generator switch, a state-funded grant Agreement. The board approved the request with a motion from Kirby and a second from Michie.
From the finance department was a request to approve the Walton Academy Financial Statements for April. The board approved the request unanimously.
Next was the Walton County School District’s financial statement approval for May. The board voted to approve the request unanimously.
The last item from finance was a request for the approval of 2021-2022 Resolutions for the Panhandle Area Educational Consortium services. A motion for approval was made by Michie and seconded by Smith. The motion carried unanimously.
The human resources department requested to approve the Educational Management Consultant Services, Inc. contract for consultant services related to Walton High School. The Deputy Superintendent made a recommendation for approval, and the board approved the request unanimously.
Next, the board unanimously approved the June 15, 2021 personnel recommendations and personnel addendum.
The next item was from Curriculum and Construction with a request to approve the contract between Triple E O.T. Inc. and Walton County School Board for occupational therapy services. The board approved the request unanimously.
Hawthorne next recommended approval of the contract between The Speech Lab LLC and Walton County School Board. A motion for approval was made by Kirby and seconded by Michie. The motion carried unanimously.
The last item was the approval of the Consultant Services Agreement with B & B Educational Consultants, Inc. The contract services state that the agreement will provide face-to-face and video-based support to teachers in Newcomer classrooms serving recently-enrolled, non-English speaking students. It will also provide face-to-face professional learning opportunities for English Language Assessment (ELA) and content area teachers assigned responsibility for English Language Learners (ELL) and bilingual aides, guidance counselors, and administrators. The activities will include understanding ACCESS 2.0 assessment results, aligning instruction to meet individual ELL student’s level of understanding the English language by aligning education with the “Can-Do” charts, understanding the ELD Standards, and include strategies and methods to utilize to ensure the academic success of this population of learners. A motion for approval was made by Kirby and seconded by Eddins. The motion passed unanimously.
Next was a PowerPoint presentation on the district’s construction project updates by Facilities Director Jill Smith. Smith gave updates and presented images of the project’s construction progress from the Magnetic Innovation Center (MIC) STEAM school’s phase two project, the South Walton High School baseball fields and dugout, Van R Butler HVAC project, Freeport Elementary School classroom addition project, Freeport Transportation facility project and updated on the new Freeport Middle School project.
The school board discussed the appointment of the Advocacy Committee representative (formerly the Legislative Committee) and the Advocacy Committee alternate. The board voted to reappoint Smith to the position of representative and Catalano as the board’s alternate.
Under administration, the board voted to approve student 2021-30 expulsion.
Next were the COVID-19 updates from School Safety Specialist Charlie Morse and Deputy Superintendent Jennifer Hawthorne. Morse reported that the state of Florida changed its process in data collection and data distribution. The numbers are being released every Friday. Because of that collection and release process, the COVID-19 numbers have not changed since the last school board meeting. Morse noted that the U.S. did hit a record high reaching 600,000 fatalities as a result of COVID-19.
Morse informed the board that the Florida Department of Health would have vaccine sites on June 17 in DeFuniak Springs and June 18 in Santa Rosa Beach. The school district has been working with the health department on the vaccine for students. As a result, students 12 years and older, accompanied by parents, will soon be eligible for the Moderna vaccine. Vaccine distribution dates are Monday, June 28, at Walton High School from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Tuesday, June 29 at Freeport High School, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Wednesday, June 30 at South Walton High School from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; and Thursday, July 1, at Paxton School from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Hawthorne informed the board that the district’s summer bridge program currently has 650 students enrolled for the four-week program. Also, the district’s EPIC Van will be in Paxton on Mondays, in DeFuniak Springs on Tuesdays, in Freeport on Wednesdays, and in the south Walton area on Thursdays. The van offers parents resources for their child to check grades, computers with WiFi, and activities for the kids.
The next item was a request for a purchase order exceeding $25,000 to Voyager Sopris Learning for LANGUAGE! Live student and teacher licenses. The board approved the request unanimously with a motion from Michie and seconded by Eddins.
The last item was a request to generate purchase orders exceeding $25,000 to Synovia and TransFinder for school bus routing software and enter into an agreement with Synovia for a recurring annual charge of $57,600 and an increase to the existing agreement of $7,500 with TransFinder. The board approved the request unanimously with a motion from Eddins and a second from Kirby.
From the public, a man inquired about the county’s internet services for the buses’ routing software and its efficacy. The board commented that there were some issues in the north area with connection, but overall, services are satisfactory with Verizon internet access.
The next school board meeting is scheduled for July 6, at 5 p.m. at the Tivoli Complex.