Story and photo by STACY MARTIN
The Walton County School Board held its regular meeting July 21, using the Microsoft Teams video platform as well as in person at the Tivoli Complex. Board members were present, in masks, and physically distanced 6 ft. apart, with the exception of board member Gail Smith, who attended the meeting virtually.
The meeting began with the usual announcements informing the public on the various ways to communicate virtually as well as calling in questions.
After the approval of the minutes and consent agenda, the board moved to the action agenda, beginning with the 2020-2021 Student Handbooks approval. The exception was for the removal of Van R. Butler, and to revisit them after the approval. The board approved the request with a motion from board member Bill Eddins and a second by Kim Kirby. The following school handbooks for the 2020-2021 school year were approved unanimously: Emerald Coast Middle School, Freeport High School, Paxton, Seacoast, South Walton High School, Dune Lakes Elementary School, Freeport Middle School, Seaside Neighborhood School, WISE Center, and Emerald Coast Technical College. Van R. Butler Elementary School’s handbook was removed due to a concern over the school’s mission statement.
Van R. Butler Principal Jimmy Ross was there to speak to the board, informing them that they did indeed revisit the issue. While they believe there was no wrongful intent in their original mission statement; however, the school did go through and change their mission and vision statement to read: “One day, all students will be prepared to successfully compete globally.” The board voted to approve the mission statement and handbook.
Superintendent Russell Hughes gave some statistics over the county’s state rankings, noting that since 2017, Walton County School District has ranked in the top five in the state in Civics and in the top twenty for U.S. History.
Next item, Hughes requested the approval of 2020-2021 Take Stock in Children Contract. A motion was made by board members Marsha Winegarner and seconded by Kim Kirby, with the motion carried.
The board then voted to approve the articulation agreement for the Dual program between the district and Northwest Florida State College. The board approved the request unanimously with a motion from Eddins and a second from Winegarner.
Under the Safety and Security department, the board approved the Walton County School District Pandemic Plan. The motion for approval was made by Eddins and seconded by Winegarner.
The next item was a request for approval of the Walton County School District Reunification Plan. The board approved unanimously with a motion made by Winegarner and seconded by Eddins. From the Human Resources department, a request for the approval of July 21, 2020 Personnel Recommendations & Personnel Addendum. Motion carried unanimously from the board. The next item was for the approval of the 2020-2021 Negotiation Team Members for the Walton County School Board. The board voted unanimously in favor of the request with a motion from Kirby and a second from Smith.
Hughes then made a request for approval of the invoice for dues to be paid to the Florida School Labor Relations Service (FSLRS) and Florida Educational Negotiators (FEN) 2020-2021 Related to Negotiations. The board voted in favor of the request unanimously.
The next item was for the American Fidelity’s approval to serve as the Section 125 and Flexible Spending Account Administrator for the School Board of Walton County. A motion was made by Kirby and seconded by Eddins; motion carried.
Approval of Contract with Florida Blue Health Insurance of Florida for the 2020-2021 School Year. Board voted in favor of the request unanimously with a motion from Winegarner and a second from Kirby.
Hughes then requested the approval of Educational Management Consultant Services, Inc. (EMCS) Contract for Consultant Services Related to Emerald Coast Technical College. The board approved unanimously with a motion from Smith and seconded by Eddins.
From the Curriculum and Instruction Department, a request was made for the approval of Agreement between School Board of Walton County and School Board of Okaloosa County, FL. for 20-21 SY. The motion carried unanimously.
Next item was the approval of Amendment 5 of the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy Strategic Alliance Agreement. According to the agenda packet, this amendment to the agreement between the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy, Inc. and the School Board of Walton County will provide the opportunity to continue the Teen Trendsetters Reading Mentors Program partnering with South Walton High School, Van R. Butler Elementary School, Walton High School, and with Maude Saunders Elementary School students. South Walton High School and Walton High School Program Advisors will receive a stipend paid by the Barbara Bush Foundation. The board voted in favor of the amendment.
From the Technology department, a request to approve the EES agreement. This agreement will allow the ability to continuously upgrade Microsoft Windows Operating Systems, Microsoft Office Suite, and Cloud Storage for staff and students. A motion for approval was made by Kirby and seconded by Winegarner, with the motion carried.
The last item from the department was the approval of the Statement of Work for Additional Districtwide Computers for Summer Refresh. Motion carried unanimously.
Facilities and Construction requested the approval of the CHELCO Right of Way Easement at the South Walton High School Field House. Motion carried.
The next item was a request to advertise Construction Management Services for Freeport Elementary School Additions and Renovations.
The agenda packet states that the Construction Management Services allows the CM firm to work closely with the owner and design team throughout the project. During the early stages of the design development process, the CM can provide value engineering options, constructability reviews, and cost estimates. The CM will competitively bid out subcontract work and give the overall best value for the project. The board approved the request with a motion from Eddins and seconded by Winegarner.
The last item request was a good cause item for the approval of DAG Architects to provide Survey and Geotechnical work for the Freeport ES Master Plan and Phase I Classroom Addition under the provisions of the Continuing Contract Agreement. The request carried unanimously.
The Administration department requested the approval of Student Expulsion #1920-07. The board voted in favor of the request with a motion from Kirby and seconded by Winegarner.
Dr. Hawthorn then gave a presentation on the Let’s Talk Update, which is a service that provides emails and messages platform to streamline conversations from the community, parents, and school staff. A total of 801 dialogues have been used through this service, with a total of 625 since March.
The last item in the administration was a COVID-19 update from Charlie Morris. Morris gave the board members COVID-19 numbers relating to the state, county, and cites. Morris also discussed safety guidelines the school has implemented with the summer programs such as SPICE, Pre-K, and sports. The board then received an update on the parent-student intent forms. The board received 7703 forms, of which 71% wanted to participate in the traditional school setting, 14% favor the innovative learning, 10% in favor of Florida Virtual, and 3% are homeschooling.
Hughes then stated that there are currently 2,583 students requesting bus route pick-ups. Hughes also noted that staff is currently following up with families who have not turned in a form.
Another topic was addressing the school districts in the counties to the west of Walton, who are delaying their school start date of up to three weeks. Hughes still has the authority to make any emergency adjustments or decisions while the state is still under emergency. Although Hughes stated he would continue to inform the board on actions taken as he has been throughout the state’s emergency program, Hughes indicated that he is currently monitoring the situation and will keep the board informed. As of the date of the meeting, the school district was still planning on opening Aug. 10, with COVID-19, CDC approved safety guidelines and precautions. That date was subsequently changed to Aug. 17 for opening.
The board gave closing statements thanking all the staff and faculty for organizing and putting safety procedures into place for the new school year. The next regular school board meeting is set for Aug. 4 with location to be determined.