BRADENTON - The little one-teacher schoolhouse won a stay at Monday night's School Board meeting.
Duette Elementary School can remain open until the end of the school day on Dec. 18, the board decided in a 5-0 vote after hearing from parent and chairman Gerald Groover, who is working to try keep the school in operation.
School Superintendent Tim McGonegal said the group that wanted to save the school has not yet formed a 501(c)(3) and that without a vote Monday night, the school would not open with the rest of the county's schools on Aug. 24. Board member Harry Kinnan said he'd prefer to close the school right away if the move to keep it open wasn't approved.
"I think that's a very unfortunate choice we find ourselves in," he said. If the option is to close it now, he noted, that should have been done two months ago when McGonegal had recommended it in his list of budget cuts.
But McGonegal said the parents were very close to forming an organization to make a charter school, and he wanted to give them a chance to do that. "My plan is to contract with this group," he said.
Kinnan said he wants monthly reports on the group's progress in forming an organization.
Board member Walter Miller asked about the number of students who would show up on the first day of school. "There seems to be some optimism for community support," he said. "Is this a commitment no matter how many children show up?"
McGonegal replied to Miller and to a reporter after the meeting that he believed there would be children at the school on the first day. Kinnan and McGonegal said that there are 100 students in the Duette area who could go to the school, but the majority are going to the schools that are zoned for that area and not Duette Elementary.
If Duette had an after-school program, McGonegal said, that could be a draw for students in the area.
One issue raised by board member Jane Pfeilsticker was the wording of the motion for the school. "The terminology is still painful to me," she said, because it called for the school to be closed on Dec. 18.
McGonegal said he had struggled with the wording of the motion. "We really need to have finality on that issue," he said.
Alternate wording that said the school would stay open until the end of the school day on Dec. 18 was inserted, and the motion passed unanimously.
After the board meeting, McGonegal said that there could be as many as 22 to 25 students on the first day of classes at Duette. Before the 2004 hurricanes, he said, there were 29 students but the school was closed after the storms and when it reopened, most parents decided to keep their children in the zoned schools.
Costs for new staffers
An issue that was pulled from the consent agenda was that of a higher cost to fingerprint newly hired employees. The charge for fingerprinting and Level II screening is set to rise from $62 to $90 on Aug. 11, and Pfeilsticker said it was way too much, especially for people just getting out of college and working on the low end of the pay scale.
Job applicants who are successful are also charged a $50 application fee, and Pfeilsticker didn't sound reassured by the news that the fees could be paid through payroll deduction and did not have to be paid upfront.
Miller agreed. "That is a significant amount of money for people at the lower end of the pay scale," he said.
McGonegal said that the state was charging more, and the district was passing the cost along. "Our children our safer," he said. "There is a cost involved, and we believe it should be borne by our employees."
The motion passed 4-1, with Pfeilsticker casting the "no" vote.
Now playing in a classroom near you
The board also discussed the issue of instructional materials, and approved 5-0 a proposal to advertise a change to the rules governing instructional materials.
"I think this a good policy change we're proposing," said board member Robert Gause, and added that he wanted to add electronic media. Movies, when used, he said, must have a curriculum component and be relevant.
Pfeilsticker agreed, noting that her children had told her of situations where the films they were shown were not relevant to the classes they were taking. Board member Barbara Harvey agreed that they needed to be part of the lesson plans and approved, not something a teacher pulled from a closet.
Kinnan noted that he did not want to be in a position of censoring movies, but they needed to come up with something that allowed for local control.
The motion to accept the proposal was approved unanimously.
The approval of submission of proposals for Florida school boards also passed 5-0, but McGonegal added that something about the GED exit option, which has been taken away, needed to be added. The board agreed that it had consensus on the issue so the GED exit was added to the list of items.
Honors and awards
School volunteers were honored Monday night, and four students from the Future Farmers of America at Southeast High School were recognized for their awards and performance at a recent event.
Outstanding volunteers were recognized for thousands of hours of time and work donated to the schools, and Lockheed presented a check for $100,000 to the Manatee Education Foundation.
The School Board approved the following items on the consent agenda in a 5-0 vote:
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