Gulf County Schools are right at the statewide mean.
The Florida Department of Education last week announced school grades for elementary schools around the state along with a preliminary snapshot of what district grades are likely to be.
Both Port St. Joe and Wewahitchka Elementary Schools received ‘C’ grades while the FDOE is projecting that the district’s grade for the year will also be a ‘C’.
“It is not where we want it to be, but we were not surprised,” said Superintendent of Schools Jim Norton about the elementary school grades. “That’s where we thought we would be.”
High school grades are not released until later in the calendar year.
The grading formula for high schools differs in that in addition to student performance on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT), other components such as graduation rate, dropout rate and enrollment and success in dual enrollment courses are also factored in.
Norton said it appeared Port St. Joe Jr./Sr. High School would likely maintain its ‘A’ grade and Wewahitchka Jr./Sr. High School was aiming for a ‘B’ but might possibly have to settle for a ‘C’.
The grades for the elementary schools, which are based on FCAT performance with additional focus on achievement among the lowest-performing students, continued a trend that began three years ago.
Up until that point, Wewahitchka Elementary had been an ‘A’ or ‘B’ school every year since 2006, but this year’s ‘C’ is the third in a row.
Port St. Joe Elementary had been an ‘A’ or ‘B’ school each year since 2006 before the ‘C’ this year.
If the district maintains a ‘C’ grade, it would be the second consecutive after six years as an honor roll district.
Norton said a headline in last week’s newspaper concerning the end of seven years of decline in county property values provides a reminder of what the district has been through over the past four years.
The district has lost nearly 400 students in the past decade, has lost teachers and has seen its overall budget trimmed by some $4 million due to declining enrollment and other factors.
Over the past four years the district has shed nearly 100 employees.
That has necessitated reallocation of resources year to year to reflect enrollment numbers and much change in the workforce.
“School grades were bound to be reflected in all that,” Norton said. “We have worked hard the past three or four years for this moment. We have patched the ship and I think school grades will reflect where we should be next year.
“We are excited about we are heading. We are heading in the right direction.”