The little ones lined up dutifully before their teachers, their back packs slung behind them like turtle shells, new clothes and haircuts all around, eager eyes wide to the new school world around them.
The older students gathered in the gym, swaggering and flirtatious, cheering the high school portion of the 19 new teachers that have joined the Franklin County High School faculty this year.
Monday was a day many will remember for years to come, the day they started another year of school.
The week prior had been spent with a busy schedule of training and preparation at both FCHS and the Apalachicola Bay Charter School, as representatives of PAEC (the Panhandle Area Educational Consortium) had conducted a series of in-service trainings for teachers and paraprofessionals, an everything from crisis de-escalation to advanced methods of information technology to addressing problematic behaviors.
Both schools appear to have strong enrollment numbers, although initial figures won’t be available until later this week, when administrators have a chance to review all the completed enrollment and attendance numbers.
ABC Principal Chimene Johnson is back at the helm, with only a few faculty changes, but at FCHS, the situation is more fluid. Principal Kris Bray resigned last week, and a search is on for her replacement.
Human Resource Director Karen Peddie told school board members at a special meeting Monday that the application period for a new principal will close Aug. 19, and that the interview committee will meet the following Thursday.
“We’re getting people from out of town,” she said. “We have about a dozen already and eight of the 12 have experience as a principal.”
Board member George Thompson asked why the district had to rely on PAEC to conduct the search, saying that their efforts have not resulted in excellent candidates.
“We haven’t had any luck with anybody as a principal,” he said. “Why wouldn’t we get members of the community to sit in on this and help out, maybe retired educators?”
Highlighting the list of new hires at FCHS is assistant principal ,Jill Rudd from Sopchoppy.
Brought in to teach physical education, to replace Jonathan Creamer is Aaron Bodin, from Morgan City, Louisiana.
Teaching middle school ESE will be Tawanda Bowen, from Crawfordville, while the new third grade teacher is Joy Bruno-Carrino, from Apalachicola.
Kimberly Cochrane, from Eastpoint, will be in the fifth grade classroom, while Russell Elser, from Carrabelle, has been hired to teach fourth grade. Crawfordville’s Eliza Joyner will teach second grade.
Patti Lester, from Tallahassee, is the new Spanish teacher, while Lucinda Mathews, from Huntsville, Alabama, will teach high school science.
Former Franklin County teacher Gretchen Millender has returned from Parachute, Colorado, to teach third grade. Stacy Reese, from Gainesville, Georgia, will be in the alternative education classroom.
Galen Ringo, granddaughter of the last Willie Speed, will teach middle school language arts, while Kayla Siprell, from Port St. Joe, will teach fourth grade.
Pamela Yates, from Perry, will instruct high school history, while Michael Yeomans, from Panacea, will be the vocational ed teacher, instructing in agriscience .
James Robinson, from Tallahassee, will oversee the in-school suspension program, while Tammy Davis, from Perry, will teach kindergarten. Amy Turner, from McCune, Kansas, will instruct fifth grade science.
Catherine Franklin, from Eastpoint, has come out of retirement to become FCHS’s part-time geometry teacher, so her teaching load will be limited to that subject, 20 hours a week.