With roughly two out of three of its middle and high school students performing below grade level in state mathematics testing, Franklin County High School is moving to revamp and rejuvenate these programs as the new school year commences.

With roughly two out of three of its middle and high school students performing below grade level in state mathematics testing, Franklin County High School is moving to revamp and rejuvenate these programs as the new school year commences.

The math department has been restructured with a new math coach and five new math teachers, including two women, Shevial Weston and Kassi Malcolm, right out of college embarking on their first teaching assignment.

“In some respect that’s good, they’re fresh, and they’re open to the methodology,” said Principal George Oehlert. “This isn’t your father’s Oldsmobile.”

Key to restructuring has been the hiring of Dale Millender, a longtime popular math teacher in Carrabelle, to replace Priscilla Tucker. The district had invested resources in Tucker, and school board members expressed concerns earlier this summer that it would be hard to replace her.

Oehlert fought hard for the hiring of the math coach, which some school board members said ought to be cut to save about $75,000. In the end, the board declined to eliminate the math coach.

“We’ve got to help these children with math,” Oehlert told the board last month. “They need the guidance of that expert math teacher for at least one year to bring this all together. (The math faculty) are better organized than they’ve ever been to teach.”

“We didn’t have the teachers that were receptive to what was being asked of them to do. That’s why we have five new math teachers,” he said. “Dale is just getting them all focused and organized and planning where there’s vertical alignment between the grade levels.

“What is it the ninth graders need to know? The eighth grade teacher better do that,” he said.

Oehlert described Millender as a “math teacher extraordinaire,” who set about this summer to align the curriculum on focus calendars and benchmark assessments, fancy terms for making sure teachers focus exclusively on the material at hand, and do so in a way that links one grade level to the next.

“What that really does is ensure all math teachers are teaching the required content, so all students have the ability to learn the content they should,” said Millender, who started in 1991 as an Algebra I teacher in Carrabelle, and then over the next 11 years built the math program to the point the school offered calculus. After leaving teaching for eight years, she returned in 2010 to the Franklin County School as a math teacher.

“The enthusiasm of all the math teachers was remarkable,” she said. “They met six days prior to the other teachers meeting, to get this right for these kids this year. We met to ensure that all the content in each math area would be taught to the students. We’ve done some specific things that we think should be helpful.”

Millender said that with a tighter alignment of curriculum, and a broader base of available courses, students will have the opportunity to build a foundation for a future career in math and science.

“They at least will have those opportunities,” she said. “I’ve heard a lot of good, positive remarks from the teachers.”

Beginning last Tuesday, each of the math teachers is offering math tutoring for an hour after school on Tuesday and Thursdays, both for math homework help or if they’re needing specific help. Millender said also that with remedial math classes, “we’re trying not to just shuffle them along but to address their gaps.”


Teachers enthusiastic for hands-on methods

The math teacher line-up for the middle and high schools features Melonie Inzetta, who has moved over from her post handling credit recovery to teach sixth and seventh math.

Malcolm teaches eighth grade math and Algebra 1, while Weston handles honors algebra and geometry, and a pre-calculus course.

Marxsen, who last year taught sixth and seventh grade math, has been reassigned to teach Algebra 1A and 1B. He also teaches remedial math, as do the all the other department’s teachers.

Former middle school math teacher Roy Carroll has returned to the classroom after serving as the district’s director of finance. He teaches Algebra I and II and college readiness math, high school subjects in which he also is certified.

“We want to take the trend to the positive,” said Millender. “Last year that’s not what we saw in the middle school.

“Our goal is to do that, and our plan in the future is to broaden our base for the number of students taking algebra 1 in the eighth grade,” she said. “So that next year advanced placement statistics will be offered and the goal is to offer AP calculus.”

Millender said the teachers also did detailed planning for math activities and focused on enrichment in real world problems, which is just the sort of thing that Malcolm is enthused about.

“I want kids to enjoy it,” she said. “You enjoy it, you’ll do it better.”

A graduate of Wewahitchka High School, Malcolm earned an associate degree in mathematics from Santa Fe College in Gainesville, and then a bachelors in elementary education from Florida State University in Panama City in April, after completing an internship at Wewahitchka Elementary.

Malcolm said the fact she is certified as an elementary school teacher, and for teaching math for grades five through nine, is an asset in teaching high school students.

“Not all secondary teachers goes through elementary education, which is very high on ‘manipulatives’,” she said, referring to hands-on teaching methods.

“It’s something kids can physically manipulate to get the answer,” Malcolm said. “I think you can take some of those elementary activities and mold it to the curriculum in eighth grade. They are still kids at heart.”

Weston believes that engaging her students will be a key to success. “You just have to get them involved in the course,” she said. “You have to teach to standards and if you tell them the goal you want to teach, they can reach it. First I have to be excited about it and they’ll see I’m excited.”

Originally from Albany, Ga., where she took part in softball, track and band, Weston started taking college courses while still a student at Terrell High School in nearby Dawson. She then earned a bachelors of science and math from Armstrong Atlantic State University in Savannah, graduating in May.

“I wanted to have a small classroom setting,” she said. “It’s a small school like my hometown. I’m actually excited about it. Hopefully I can help.”

Malcolm, too, shares Weston’s enthusiasm for the challenge.

“I’ve always wanted to be a teacher and I’ve always loved math,” she said. “It’s stupid but I got excited about doing equations. I just love doing it.

“Ideally I want them not to love it like I do, but my goal is I want them to realize it’s something they will use in life,” said Malcolm. “It’s important and it’s going to be important in different ways.

“I got a comment last week from a student. She told me I never liked math but I get excited about coming to your class,” said Malcolm. “If I can get them excited about coming to class, I can get them excited about the subject.

“I don’t know if I’ll be able achieve everything I want to this year as far as reaching all my goals, everything’s that involved in teaching,” she said. “Would I love to? Yes.”

Malcolm said working with a seasoned teacher like Millender has been a boost to her as she embarks on a teaching career. “It’s been beneficial for me to have her by my side, at arm’s reach,” she said.

Millender said she is just as pleased to be on the other end of the teaching partnership. “What I’m doing here is building this program back,” she said. “I’m glad to be a part of it.”