Weekly Recap 5/11 – 5/15
It was a great week as your District 4 school board member! This is such a busy time of year and there are so many good things going on in our district.
So, in case I haven’t told everyone at least 100 times already, I’m a member of the Hendry County Education Improvement Task Force. The Task Force is a volunteer think tank comprised of county-wide stakeholders representing various interests and businesses, who share the fundamental belief that high quality public education is the cornerstone of a qualified workforce and a prosperous local economy. We work with the school district and collaborate with school leaders to identify areas we have the capacity, as private citizens, to effectuate positive change.
I. Love. This. Group.
One of the areas we wanted to address was the county’s lagging FAFSA completion rates. FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The federal government awards over $150 billion each year in financial assistance to attend college and vocational school and close to 70% of this year’s graduating seniors in Hendry County have not completed one. 100% of the 70% of the students who didn’t complete a FAFSA will have limited future education and/or economic opportunities. Our job is to remove as many obstacles as we can for these students to get these applications completed.
We set out to change that number Monday during our FAFSA Party. We had approximately 21 students come out and create their FSA ID. This is the replacement for the Federal Student Aid PIN. (If you have already completed a FAFSA and received a PIN you can link it to your FSA ID. If you have forgotten your current PIN, you can still create a FSA ID.) You will need to go to www.fafsa.gov and click on the FSA ID link at the top of the page to create a new FSA ID.)
Here is the awesome part…we had 14 seniors complete their FAFSA for the first time! We also had Palm Beach State representatives and Florida South Western State representatives on hand to discuss future enrollment. Wait. It gets better! We had a mom of a graduating senior fill out a FAFSA and a young man who had dropped out of high school stopped in to find out about what he needed to do to get his GED and continue his education. (Good gravy! Just typing that makes my allergies flare up!) This was a strong beginning and the Task Force is already brainstorming ideas to increase this initiative to reach more students next year.
Tuesday was Workshop and Board Meeting night. The budget workshop was on overview of the capital outlay budget.
I was a great honor to recognize one of my favorite people on campus at my children’s school. After 22 years of dedicated service to Westside Elementary, Hector Placencia will be retiring at the end of the school year. Hector was one of the best unwitting PTO members in the history of the organization. I would have never made it through three years as PTO President without him. I hope he has the most lovely retirement.
Representatives from Sodexo were on hand to give the Board an overview of the transition process for food services. Sodexo will officially take over management on July 1, and Sodexo and district staff have already begun meeting with the district’s food service employees to assist with their individual transitions.
Our district has submitted the Community Eligibility Application to determine if our district qualifies to provide FREE BREAKFAST AND LUNCH TO ALL STUDENTS as 82% of our district’s students currently qualify for free/reduced lunch. All students are eligible to receive free breakfast each morning. If that application is denied, the Florida Dept of Agriculture has set 2105/16 school lunch prices at $2.10 for elementary students which is the same price as last year, and a $0.05 increase to $2.40 for middle and high school students.
The Board unanimously approved $286,592.62 in new allocations for a Network Technician, Behavior Specialist, ESE Specialist, Parent Assist, and a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant. An additional Network Tech is needed to keep up with the increasing tech demands from digital classrooms and online testing. The other new positions were necessary to respond to the tremendous growth of Exceptional Student Education (ESE) populations within the district.
In an earlier post, I stated that we would be voting on a School Board Policy Review at this meeting but I was incorrect. We reviewed it.
When Chairman Brown asked if there was any board member business, I expressed my continued enthusiasm for developing a strategic plan, inquired about the development process for district wellness programs, and inquired about information being current on district and school websites.
I left the board meeting with a folder of applications for the Educators Affecting Autism Classroom Grant in Honor of John Mack. This year, I asked teachers to tell me how they would spend $250 in their classrooms to support the sensory and academic needs of students on the autism spectrum. Reading the essays and plans they have submitted has been an enlightening experience as it provides educator’s insight to what they need to help their ASD students be successful academically and socially. Many thanks to people who purchased shirts which funded these grants.
I was blown away on Thursday when I attend Central Elementary’s Annual Patriotic Program. Mrs. Denault orchestrated a powerful performance of students singing patriotic songs, and honoring veterans and current members of our country’s military. There is an awesome video by The Clewiston News on my facebook page if you want to check it out. www.facebook.com/StephanieSchneiderBusin
I ended the week with one of my favorite organizations at Clewiston High School. The FPSA / Criminal Justice Academy students held their end-of-the year banquet and I was delighted to be their guest. This club brings honor to our district and these students, and their remarkable leader, contribute so much to our communities within Hendry County. As each Senior was recognized tonight, I was confident each one will be great contributors to society. I am grateful for their teacher who invests so much in shaping these leaders of tomorrow.
Tomorrow’s a new week full of fun! I’ll kick it off at Central Elementary on Monday morning to serve as a judge for their school-wide Tropicana Speech Contest. Looking forward to it!
As always, I appreciate you taking the time to read my blog and the opportunity to serve you as your District 4 School Board Member. All opinions stated within are my own.