After a flurry of hiring at the Franklin County School over the last two weeks, including the filling of vacancies that loomed in middle and high school math, both county public schools opened Monday with a full slate of teaching personnel.
“I’m very excited about the new hires, they bring excitement and energy to our community,” said Superintendent Traci Moses, who spent Monday morning in the media center helping the new administration, led by Principal Jill Rudd, and Assistant Principals Rob Wheetley and Shelly Miedona, assist with students who may have missed last week’s open house.
“We are going to be a school of excellence. I have high expectations for all our faculty and students,” said Moses. “This will be one of the best years ever.
“Positive things are coming for Franklin County,” she said. “I’m really excited.”
On the western edge of the county, Apalachicola Bay Charter School Principal Chimene Johnson, a job she has held for the last seven of her 16 years at the school, welcomed as many of the school’s 375 students as she could.
The ABC School, which has a waiting list for all of its elementary grades, and only a few openings in the middle school, also dealt this past spring with filling teaching vacancies, but only four. Johnson said finding suitable, affordable housing was an issue with the hires, just as it has perplexed the search by Human Resource Director Karen Peddie and assistant Alison Chipman, who have been hard at it since spring to fill at least 18 vacancies.
Johnson filled one of her four jobs by luring fourth grade teacher Joy Carrino from Franklin County back to the ABC School, where she had begun her budding career as a teaching assistant. The other three went to first grade teacher Jaime Parfitt, phys ed teacher Katie Lacour and to middle school world and U.S. history teacher John Dietrich, an Illinois native who recently finished a student teaching year in Gainesville.
At Franklin County, the math jobs have come together in a new constellation, one of its stars Cathy Franklin, an experienced teacher who left not long after taking on a part-time assignment a year ago at the high school. She’s excited to be back, teaching Algebra 2 and liberal arts math, and so were the students, who greeted her at the Aug. 3 open house, caring how well they’ll do this year.
Joining her in this vital social role of math teacher, the man or woman who imparts quantity and abstraction to thought, is a find that Chipman couldn’t hide her delight over. Ben Seligson, a master’s from University of Michigan, just married, who called short his honeymoon to take the job, to be nearer family in Tallahassee. Fred Maughan, retired Air Force, from Oklahoma, who’ll also teach the aeronautics course the school has with Embry-Riddle.
Eighth and ninth grade math will be handled by Sharon Anderson, who has a four-year degree in accounting and finance, and is working under a temporary certificate in business education, the pay that of a long-term substitute. Tawanda Bowen, an ESE teacher certified in math, volunteered to move over to the fifth math position.
All will receive an additional $2,000 supplement, because math and science are both considered critical needs. Those teachers, such as Franklin, returning from retirement will get credit for up to 10 years of experience, based on an agreement reached this summer with the teachers union.
The new teachers include a Spanish teacher Ruben Uribe, a Colombian-American, from Gadsden County, who has two high school aged sons, and phys ed teacher Charles Syverson, who as a football coach won two state titles in Wyoming.
The school had two holes as of Tuesday, a teacher in third and one in fifth, which will force them to open the year with long-term substitutes.
“We’re still recruiting and interviewing,” said Peddie, “That’s happening around the state everywhere, districts around the state are beginning school without teachers in place.”
One such sub, who the district anticipates will teach phys ed under a temporary certificate is 2011 Port St Joe high school grad Rakeem Quinn, now finishing college, who faced many a Seahawk on the football field and baseball diamond seven years ago.
Moses said the students applauded when the school’s leadership spoke, “It was a very smooth morning. They pretty much set boundaries and expectations, in addition to reviewing the code of conduct,” she said.
There’s a sharpened focus on communication with and between teachers, so that a student’s education can be smartly tailored for optimal results. A grant the school received is specifically for “increasing communication and collaboration between school to home,” a problem area often more complained about than remedied.
Moses is shaping the look and feel of the school with the deliberateness of a high school mom running a home on a budget. She’s repurposed the teachers’ chairs for the football visitors’ locker room, some going to teachers assistants, none going to waste. Plus the front office has all new furniture.
“The furniture was 10 years old. All the teachers and staff got new chairs,” she said. “It was needed, they were long overdue, peeling.”
Moses said she thought the $35,000 figure the furniture rep on the state bid site offered was too much, so she chose to go with Quill, online, and the district paid $16,000.
Given the hiring challenges the school faced, the district’s recruitment class for the start of school was pretty full, no doubt a relief to a fresh slate of administrators who know how much the fragile weight of education rests so greatly in teachers’ hands.
Still, Moses has concerns about the elementary school gaps being filled with substitutes who, like all the teachers, the district will do its best to assist.
“It isn’t ideal, one has a bachelors degree and one is in college,” she said. “We had to start the school year. One has worked as a long-term sub, and has been wonderful with students.”
Moses said she believes the third grade has a strong team of five teachers, led by experienced teachers Leigh Smith and Katrina Ham, with a younger face, Jamie Williams, who the school board commended last month for perfect attendance last year.
The furniture that appoints the new look of the front office, is designed in a way that provides the front desk, staffed by Carla Bankston and Louise Chipman, maximum greeting capability as they make sure all visitors are chronicled elctroncially.
“You may not be able to walk in right away and speak to someone. They will schedule. People have full calendars,” said Moses. “It’s a team effort to help get parents the support they need.”