The Apalachicola Bay Charter School swam against the statewide current last week, 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 Principal Chimene 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.

“It was an outstanding effort, a lot of team effort went into play.” she said. “We’re very thrilled and excited for our students. Everyone is focused on the mission of our school.”

The ABC School produced a total of 614 points, well above the minimum of 590 needed to earn an A. “It is comfortable but there’s always room for growth,” said Johnson.

Because Franklin County High School is a combination kindergarten through 12th grade school, its grade is pending until December. As it stands now, the school has produced 504 points and will be assigned additional points for student participation in accelerated curricular, performance in accelerated curricular, graduation rates, and college readiness in reading and math.

“Growth in learning this year has exceeded levels from last year,” said Superintendent Nina Marks.

Last year, the school earned a C grade. Earlier this month, the state board of education adopted Commissioner Tony Bennett’s recommendation to prevent any school grade from dropping more than one letter grade in one year in order to transition to the more rigorous Common Core State Standards.

Marks said Bennett spoke to superintendents last week to reinforce the "safety net" provision he had requested on behalf of the superintendents. Bennett said the provision, supported by the board, is in place for superintendents "to maintain the integrity of the system" as Florida moves toward transitioning to Common Core. Bennett also said that 2014-15 will most likely produce another decline in grades, indicative of maintaining higher standards, higher levels of expectation, and the rigor of assessments.

“Everyone working in the Franklin County School District system should understand that our primary focus and decision-making process must be for benefit of all district children. We have a responsibility to make a difference in their lives,” said Marks. “I believe students should be provided resources, enhancing their educational experiences. The job is never done until the life of a child is improved, confidence is evident, and future success is more secure.”


Five new staffers to join ABC

Johnson said the ABC School’s success has been due to a joint effort to evaluate the data generated by student performance and then involve students and parents in the ongoing process of tailoring the best approach.

“We have veteran teachers teaching the same subjects and grade levels. They are fine tuning the curriculum to reach all our students,” she said. “Students play an active part in their education. They take ownership of their data and their scores, and teachers have chats with students and parents about setting goals for them to reach.

“I feel that is one of the key factors that help our students to become more successful,” said Johnson, now in her 29th year as an educator. “We evaluate the data that we have to look at and see where the areas are that we need to focus their attention.”

Schools that receive an A grade are eligible to receive bonus funding that they decide how best to spend. Johnson said staff members, together with the School Advisory Council, will work out a plan that may include bonuses to employees, or an investment in additional technology, or a combination of the two. The ABC School has used its A school bonus money for both purposes in years past.

Johnson said the school has hired five new teachers, to replace those who have left either to be stay-at-home moms, or have moved away due to their spouse’s employment or to be nearer to family.

First grade teachers Lena Allen and Aani Carlton have left, and will be replaced by Shelby McDonald, from Georgia, and Roxanne Ramsdell, from Wisconsin.

Fifth-grade teacher Brooke Linane, who Johnson said had helped produce excellent science scores, has moved away. She will be replaced by Leanne Poloronis, who is back fulltime in the classroom.

Dana Hicks also has moved, and she will be replaced in the pre-kindergarten classroom by Katy Sparks, from Atlanta, Ga.

To accommodate growth, the ABC School has added an additional third grade classroom, and that will be taught by Jessi Ammons, an Apalachicola native, who has been teaching in the Orlando area.

In addition, Johnson said, two new members have been added to the volunteer board of directors that oversees the school. Parent Tina Messer has been added to the board, and Hank Kozlowsky has rejoined the board, which is chaired by Bud Hayes.