Teachers and support personnel will enjoy a little wallet padding this school year.

Teachers and support personnel will enjoy a little wallet padding this school year.

Thanks to state funding and an added contribution from the Gulf County School Board, teachers and non-instructional personnel will realize salary increases this year.

The teachers, and the four school principals, will benefit from more than $300,000 earmarked by Florida lawmakers in the spring for teacher raises.

The district and union representing teachers agreed to uniformly disburse those funds to all instructional personnel, meaning each teacher and principal will receive a bump in salary of $1,715.

The raises, which lawmakers hoped would be disbursed based on performance, were not linked to teacher evaluations. Many districts across the state are not linking performance and this year’s pay increase from Tallahassee.

As for district non-instructional personnel, the School Board approved a 3 percent across the board pay hike.

The district’s contribution to employee health insurance plans remains $550 per month.

“Everybody should be pleased with what we were able to do given (the financial situation) we are going through,” said school board member Billy Quinn, Jr.

Early enrollment down

After the first full week of classes, enrollment in the four public schools is down from projections and last year’s enrollment.

The district projected enrollment to be 1,852 this year, but thus far the district is roughly 55-60 students short of that number.

“Port St. Joe is up and Wewahitchka is down,” said Superintendent of Schools Jim Norton, adding that five new students enrolled at Wewahitchka Elementary on Monday. “We continued to monitor the situation and budget accordingly.”

The first count for purposes of establishing FTE, the numerator for school funding, is in October.

Norton said enrollment is typically down each year prior to the Labor Day holiday and said the hope is the numbers “will correct themselves” as September unfolds.

While the overall numbers highlight a continuing trend of declining enrollment - 10 years ago district enrollment topped 2,200 – there were two positive signs reported during Tuesday’s board meeting.

The kindergarten classes at Port St. Joe Elementary School are well up, 88 students, causing Principal Sue Gannon to restructure programs to meet class size requirements.

And the number of students who are home-schooled in the county is down, from 85 to 64 students.

“The good news is some of those students are returning to the schools,” said Deborah Crosby, coordinator for programs.

Highland View Elementary

The board approved Norton updating the appraisals and advertising for the Highland View School site, which the district has been trying to sell for nearly a year.

Norton said the district had not had any serious buyers after two rounds of legal advertisement and he said he wanted to restart the process as the building becomes more of an eyesore and dangerous as it sits vacant.

Norton will not only explore the sale of the property but also the sale of contents and fixtures in the former school site, which had been used by North Florida Child Development prior to this year.

Student progression

The board approved changes to the student progression plan which were the result of changes on the state level.

The most significant are that kindergarten students will now be graded, instead of the previous ratings of “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory” and high school students, if they have achieved all required credits, will not be allowed to graduate in December of their senior year instead of waiting until year end.