The 2013-14 school year for the Franklin County Schools was, as they say, a rebuilding year.
Eric Bidwell began his first full year as principal, with Kris Bray as his second, and Eddie Joseph and Al London his lieutenants.
Bidwell said numbers were at 932, up by 47 from the 885 students who finished last year. Apalachicola Bay Charter School Chimene Johnson also saw an increase at the charter school, up by 40 new students to an enrollment of 350 in pre-Kindergarten through eighth grade.
With the closure at the end of last year of the Learning Academy, which addressed credit recovery for students who had fallen behind in their work, those teachers were moved to the main campus to assume new teaching assignments.
The Apalachicola Bay Charter School swam against the statewide current, as it posted its second consecutive A grade, and fourth in the last five years.
The grade for the kindergarten through eighth grade school was achieved even as the number of A schools throughout the state dropped sharply, from 1,242 in 2012 to 760 this past year. The number of A schools went from being 48 percent of the total number of schools, to 29 percent, a decline of nearly 20 percentage points.
“We were extremely proud that we maintained the A status and A ranking,” said Johnson. “I feel like it comes from the support of our volunteer board of directors, our students, our staff, our parents, who all focus on the mission of our school, to reach the child’s social and academic potential.
On the sports front, the year saw the departure of football coach Josh Wright, whoi left for a job in Panama City.
“It’s a new look,” said coach Aaron York, 31, who replaced Wright. “We’re installing discipline first and character. That’s our foundation. We tell them ‘If you don’t have these, you can’t win.’”
Offensive coordinator is newcomer Scott Collins, who taught 11 years at Wakulla High School and teaches middle school social studies. He became the school’s baseball coach as well as coach of a newly created girls golf team.
Working with the special teams and wide receivers is middle and high school ESE teacher Gerald Tate, a 2009 Troy University grad who played wide receiver for the Trojans. Also new to the coaching staff is middle school phys ed teacher Jonathan Creamer, a 1999 Apalachicola High School grad who received his master’s degree from the University of South Florida.
The year saw a minor scandal in the schools when a Franklin County parent questioned the conduct of high school teachers who administer the 10th grade state writing test.
The district invalidated five tests, and issued a statement March 6 that said “a breach of security was reported. The invalidation is the result of documented, unauthorized help or suggestions made during the test by the administrator of the test.”
School finances were again an issue, as the district sought to cut a million dollars in order to obtain balance. School employees rallied to protect their jobs, and there was heated discussion over ways to cut expenses.
By year’s end, jobs were saved, and county teachers, at both the Apalachicola Bay Charter and Franklin County schools, both got a boost in their take-home pay this school year of about $1,700.
The school board and the union ratified a one-year addendum to the existing three-year contract that will grant teachers at Franklin County School a $1,860 raise this school year, which translates to a net $1,662. Teachers at the charter school, who are not in the union, also received a similar raise.
Gov. Rick Scott last spring earmarked additional school funding for raises statewide, it was specified they were to go to teachers who have been determined to have been evaluated as effective, or highly effective, during the 2012-13 school year.