WCSB says goodbye to Blackshear and Noyes, hears from parents

WALTON COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT Chief Finance Officer Debra Noyes (left) is retiring from her post. Board members and District Superintendent Russell Hughes lavished praise on Noyes and the job she had done cleaning up and turning around the financial outlook for the district. LONG TIME FACILITIES PLANNER FOR THE WALTON COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT Tom Blackshear (right) is retiring. District Superintendent Russell Hughes and board members had nothing but kind things to say about Blackshear and a few lamented that they were saddened by his leaving and would miss him.

By ALICIA LEONARD

The Walton County School Board (WCSB) held their first meeting of the month at the South Walton High School in the media center at 5 p.m. on Dec. 5, 2017. All members were present and this was the only meeting to be held in December.

The board approved the agenda, adopted six sets of minutes, and called for public comments at the top of the meeting. With no comments forthcoming on the approved agenda they moved on to the consent portion of the agenda.

This portion listed items such as kitchen equipment, fire alarm system upgrades, transportation for students (band, athletes, clubs) as well as some schedules for the upcoming year for some groups and teams such as soccer and basketball.The board approved the consent agenda as a whole item.

Under the action agenda portion of the meeting the board approved contracts for some consultant services and well as personnel.

The board also approved the monthly executive financial summaries, along with instruction curriculum.

Under technology board members came to a 3-2 vote over an issue with a program called Board Docs. Board attorney Ben Holley told the board that he had went “around and around” with the legal team for the software and documentation service and they had come to an impasse over the public records portion of the contract. Holley had included the item in the contract and the opposing legal team had removed it according to the discussion. The district is required to keep items for public record request, and will continue to do so but could not reach an agreement with Board Docs about the company’s stance on public records, according to Holley. The company provides the recommended agenda software championed by the Florida School Board Association.

The nay votes against the item were cast by board members Gail Smith and Marsha Winegarner; after much discussion but no resolution of the issue Holley made note of during the item discussion.

Under facilities and construction the schematics for a 10-classroom addition for South Walton High School was approved. The design ideas had taken into account meetings and discussions with students, parents and staff of the school. The board first saw a rough draft at the Nov. 5, 2017 regular meeting. The board had originally planned for a 20-classroom addition but those plans were denied by the Florida Department of Education.

The new plan shifts the main entrance to the south/south east corner of the school, and will help expand lunch room space somewhat (covered but contained outdoor space). According to the facilities department, it will also improve security, and shift some transport to and from the school to the back or eastern portion of the building.

A parent spoke in favor of the board’s decision and said although they applauded the additions, there was more needed for student growth and they and many other parents would be watching and expecting the board to keep pursuing more expansion of the high school.

Another parent spoke to the board during public comments allowed for items not on the agenda about the gifted program and the need for improvement.

The father stated that with a gifted student it was not as easy as just promoting the student to a higher grade because although their intelligence level could pass a higher grade, emotionally and socially gifted students are still their chronological age. He added that they deserved more than the hour a day the gifted program offered them separate from their regular classmates.

He asked about his daughter’s situation, “Why should she have to give up her emotional and social equals to get an education?”

The parent that spoke to the board about the classroom additions earlier echoed the gifted student’s parent, adding that some programs only have one or a few students and are held in what she called “a shed.” She said the shed was clean and cozy but it was still a shed where the gifted students are taught at one of the south Walton elementary schools.

District Superintendent Russell Hughes told the parents that he heard them and understood what they were saying and he had plans in the works to build the program to something more fitting for the gifted population in the district that would be at least on par with other programs in the state. He also invited the father of the gifted student that first approached the board about the program to stay and talk with him after the meeting.

In closing the board said goodbye to two district employees moving into retirement.

In the Facilities department, the board and Hughes had a bittersweet moment saying goodbye to long term facilities planner Tom Blackshear. Hughes and board members had nothing but kind words for the long-term employee of the district and many said they were sad they had to approve his retirement request.

The other goodbye was for Chief Finance Officer Debra Noyes. Noyes was praised by the board and Hughes as well for cleaning up and turning around the district’s financial picture during the last three-plus years. They expressed their sadness over losing her in that department due to retirement, and gave their thanks for the excellent job she had provided to the district.

The Dec. 19, 2017 meeting for the board has been canceled and the next meeting will be in the new year. To see more about meetings, staff, students and school news, go to www.walton.k12.fl.us.