Sweep aside annual standardized testing dates and the most important weeks of each school year arrive in October and February.

Those months bring the official count of full-time equivalent student enrollment in the district, with the October count coming next week.

In other words, attendance is important every week, but next week student attendance is critical.

Right now, the district is about 40 students off the projection, which this year was 1,901 students, said Bill Carr, Assistant Superintendent for Business Affairs.

Carr said the deficit is across the county, south end and north.

School funding is tied to full-time equivalent enrollment, with each student bringing roughly $4,000 in basic funding to the district, so the key is to be as close, if not over projections.

Fall short of projections and by the time the fiscal year budgets are balanced out, the district will see less funding than calculated at the beginning of the fiscal year.

Carr said the district tends to come in behind projections in the fall only to make up the gap during the February count.


Triumph Gulf Coast

Lori Price, Assistant Superintendent of Instruction, said the district has received verbal approval on a term sheet from Triumph Gulf Coast, Inc. for a grant to create a drone, or unmanned aviation, program.

The Triumph board approved the $750,000 grant during last month’s board meeting, pending a term sheet.

Price said the details of that term sheet, the equivalent of a contract with Triumph, had been worked out with Triumph staff by phone and would likely be presented to the board during this month’s meeting.

Triumph meets this month in Gulf County, at the Gulf/Franklin campus of Gulf Coast State College.

“The comprehensive nature of this grant (is significant),” said Superintendent of Schools Jim Norton.

As part of the overall instruction, elementary school students will learn coding and the unmanned aviation component has applications in Wewahitchka for students seeking agricultural science certifications.

“(The grant) has a lot of different applications,” Price said.

The Triumph board is also scheduled this month to take up a district grant application to establish a culinary arts program at Port St. Joe Jr./Sr. High School.


Perfect scores

The board recognized five students Tuesday, three of whom were present, for achieving a perfect score on at least one component of the Florida Standards Assessment tests.

Port St. Joe students Luke Lentz and Owen Combs earned perfect scores in Civics and English Language Arts, respectively.

Present at Tuesday’s meeting were three Wewahitchka students who also had perfect scores.

Isabella Sheely was perfect on the fourth-grade math test; Lakin Ferrell was perfect on the fifth-grade math test; and Daniel Bozeman was perfect in the U.S. History test.

All received certificates and letters of recognition from Gov. Rick Scott.


Atmosphere of ‘fear, intimidation’

The most time-consuming portion of Tuesday’s meeting was discussion between parent Susan Kotelman and Norton.

Kotelman distributed to board members information pertaining to the recent abrupt resignation of a Wewahitchka Elementary School teacher.

Kotelman also related a conversation her husband is alleged to have had with Norton, which Kotelman said was unprofessional and threatening.

“There is an atmosphere of fear and intimidation in the schools,” Kotelman said. “People are afraid of losing their jobs if they speak out.”

Kotelman urged the five school board members to work together to address the issues and work “on creating a better, safer environment.”

Norton disputed the contents of conversation with Kotelman’s husband, noting she was not present, and said he served in his job based on his relationship with Jesus Christ.

There is a separation of church and state, Norton continued, but he said he believed many board members and members of his staff come to work each day for similar reasons.

And, he said, he and Kotelman have a history of butting heads on various issues and noted she was sitting with the president of the union representing school employees.

There is, Norton continued, an open arbitration case involving Krissy Gentry.

Kotelman said Norton’s comments, in reply to the concerns of a parent, were “unprofessional.”



“Dome” repairs

The board is back to square one after the lone bidder on work to several supporting beams in “The Dome” at Port St. Joe Jr./Sr. High School declined the bid.