As many teachers and students wonder where in the world the summer disappeared to, the 2018-19 school years ramps up Monday.
“I’m excited about the school year,” said Brooke Wooten, chairman of the Gulf County School Board.
The most notable difference to be noticed as the school year dawns is the increase in security.
Under an agreement with the Gulf County Sheriff’s Office each school will now have a School Resource Officer on site, with a vehicle at each school.
In addition, Sgt. Stacey Strickland, the veteran SRO in Port St. Joe schools, will act as supervisor, roving among the county’s four public schools.
In addition, there will be changes in entering schools.
Wewahitchka Elementary School had already “harden” the entrance, forcing all visitors to enter the school office before continuing into the school.
Port St. Joe Jr./Sr. High School now has a similar entrance; the only way in is into the front office.
“We did away with those eight doors in the front, anyone could just come in,” said Assistant Superintendent of Business Bill Carr. “The only way in is through the office.”
The most visible administrative change is the transfer of Tracy Bowers, formerly principal at Wewahitchka Elementary, to the district offices with Billy Hoover taking over at WES.
Teachers and all school district employees will kick the year off Monday with a celebration at the Honeyville Community Center.
The kickoff proved to be something of a bone of contention Tuesday when Port St. Joe Elementary teacher Krissy Gentry asked if custodial employees could attend.
Superintendent of Schools Jim Norton said the teacher’s union, of which Gentry is president, was trying to improve union membership after state legislation approved earlier this year mandated unions meet certain membership thresholds to maintain certification.
The bill’s particular targets were unions representing public employees, including teachers.
“They are trying to bolster there numbers,” Norton said.
However, Sheria Griffin, executive director of the union representing teachers and school employees, said the custodial crews could not be part of the bargaining unit because they work for a contractor.
Gentry said she was making the request “from my heart because several told me last year they were hurt they were not invited.”
Norton said the focus is on instructional staff and urged union representatives to discuss such an issue in private with him.
The Gulf County School Board Tuesday held the first public hearing on the budget, which includes an increase of 7.27 percent above rollback, that millage which would bring in the same dollars as the prior fiscal year.
In essence, the board has sway over one component of the budget, capital outlay dollars, while all other funding flows from the Florida Legislature, except the voter-approved one mill operational levy.
The Required Local Effort (RLE), that which the state levies in order for the district to receive any state funding will go down by 5.25 percent, 0.21 mills, discretionary funding remained flat and uniform across the state.
As for the capital outlay dollars, the board approved a millage increase just higher than the decrease in RLE, 0.28 mills, representing a 29 percent increase in dollars.
One of the major expenditures will be $439,795 for four news buses and $650,000 for lighting, fire alarms and other maintenance projects under new school safety guidelines.
The overall millage rate, 6.646 mills, represents an increase of 0.11 mills, 1.66 percent.