The start of school is pretty much the same every year, except when it’s different.

Monday’s opening of the 2013-14 school year went as well as it always does, the same energy of the children, duty of parents, excitement of faculty.

The smiles this year seemed more prevalent, though, and the sense that change is in the air more pervasive.

Eric Bidwell began his first full year as principal, with Kris Bray as his second, and Eddie Joseph and Al London his lieutenants.

“It was fantastic,” Bidwell said, reviewing Monday’s results with Bray and Athletic Director Mike Sweatt, three key members of the school’s leadership.

He 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.

Her words embodied the sentiments of both principals. “It has been a busy two days. But we are off to a great start,” Johnson said. “The teachers are excited and prepared. The students have come in and left at the end of the day with big smiles. We are looking forward to a wonderful year.”

For freshman Luke Haines, who went to freshman orientation with his mom Lori Brownsworth, the new year is a chance to start anew with schoolwork. ““It’s a whole clean slate and this is where it counts,” he said. “Since we’re in high school, people think we’re a little more adult and people start treating us like adults.”

Haines began his adjustment to life in Franklin County the second semester of last year, moving here from a rural Iowa district that was fully wired, to the extent each students had an Apple MacBook with which they shared their schoolwork with teachers.

Brownsworth put it in perspective for her son. “It’s the old fashioned way,” she said as they reviewed his schedule at last week’s orientation. “It’s OK.”


Elementary school

There are right now three Kindergarten, taught by veteran teachers Barbara Bloodworth, Mary Williams and Valerie Miller, but with 77 students enrolled, six more than were in place last year when there were five Kindergarten classes, Bidwell said the school anticipates adding another class. The class size amendment calls for a maximum of 18 students per class.

The first grade classes will see the only new addition to the elementary school faculty, Natasha Pennycuff, who grew up in Eastpoint and recently graduated from Florida State University. A longtime substitute, she’ll be now working fulltime alongside Shelly Blackburn and two teachers, Deane Cook and Patty Dempsey, who taught kindergarten last year

The five second grade teachers remain Marvin Boyd, Sarah Brown, Misty Luberto, Leigh Smith and Brenda Vause, as do the four third grade teachers, Lynn Clark, Jeanie Ford, Katrina Ham and Pam Schaeffer, and the three fourth grade teachers, Donna Barber, Laura King and Debbie Childress. Audrey Gay and Melanie Humble will be at the helm of the two fifth grade classes.

For the ESE students, Linda Mitchell will instruct kindergarten and first graders; Gwen Creamer second and third graders; and Beverly Parish fourth and fifth graders. Cathy Wood will instruct the behavior modification classroom, which addresses the needs of students who are emotionally or behaviorally disturbed. Wanda Teat serves as guidance counselor.

David Walker will handle elementary physical education. Bidwell said that while there are no elementary music or art teachers, time has been set aside in the schedule for classroom teachers to address these subject areas.


Middle School

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 have been moved to the main campus to assume new teaching assignments.

Mike Todd joins Kassi Malcolm in teaching middle school math, while Sharon Solomon will work alongside Spencer Tolbert in teaching middle school science. Elinor Mount Simmons handles credit recovery on the main campus.

Joining Hilary Stanton in teaching middle school social studies will be newcomer Scott Collins, who fills the slot formerly occupied by the retired Pam Marshall. Collins is a veteran teacher who last taught and coached at Wakulla High School.

Teaching language arts to middle school schoolers are three veteran teachers – LeeAnna Parish (sixth), Andrea Keuchel (seventh) and Lydia Countryman (eighth). Teaching middle school math are Shevial Weston and Dale Millender.

Newcomer Gerald Tate, a recent Troy University grad, replaces Laura Baney in teaching middle school ESE, and will work alongside Stacey DeVaughn.

Also new to the school is middle school phys ed teacher Jonathan Creamer, a 1999 Apalachicola High School grad who holds a bachelor’s degree from Florida State and recently received his master’s degree from the University of South Florida.

Karl Lester is back at the helm of the middle and high school bands,


High School

New to the math faculty is Christy Wood, from Port St. Joe, who replaces Roy Carroll. Returning to the science classroom is David Meyer, who had taught science previously before becoming the school’s computer coordinator. That information technology task will now be handled under a private sector contract with Eagle Tree Technologies, a newly formed company under the management of Kevin Ward. Heidi Montgomery returns as the other high school science teacher.

Back teaching social studies are Stephanie Howze Jones and Jamie Duhart, while language arts will be again handled by Callie Nichols, Barbara Lee and Sherry Joyner.

Returning in their roles at the high school are Debbie Fletcher (Culinary Arts), W.K. Sanders (Carpentry), Jennifer Edwards (Digital Design), Charlie Wilkinson (ESE), Karyl Gavigan (Art and Food Prep) and Carol Davis (Virtual School).

New this year are Aaron York, a former Bozeman School staffer who will teach phys ed, as will returning PE teacher Michael Sweatt. Patty Creamer will helm the library, while Harolyn Walker serves as academic coach, Roderick Robison as middle and high school guidance counselor.


ABC School

The ABC School has a new preK teacher, Katy Sparks, who has a degree from Auburn University and Piedmont College. She comes from Georgia with a background in early childhood and preK experience. 

The two new first grade teachers are Roxanne Ramsdell, who studied at the University of Wisconsin Parkside and National Louis University in Illinois, with 17 years’ experience in Wisconsin and the US Virgin Islands, and Haley Baroody, who grew up in Wakulla County and graduated from Florida State University. She has teaching experience in Oregon and most recently an international baccalaureate school in Costa Rica.

The new third grade teacher is Jessi Ammons, a native of Apalachicola and graduate of Florida State University, with 10 years teaching experience in Florida.

The two new fifth grade teachers are LeeAnne Poloronis, an Apalachicola native, graduate of Florida State University, who is returning to the school with 11 years’ experience in education; and Shelby McDonald, who comes from Georgia with nine years teaching experience.

MacKenzie Williams, an Apalachicola native, former Apalachicola High School basketball star who graduated from Florida State University and is now in his first year as a certified teacher.