Literacy Week in Hendry County

Mrs. Penuel leads her first grade class through one of the literacy stations at CHS.

Mrs. Penuel leads her first grade class through one of the literacy stations at CHS.

Members of the School Board were invited to attend Literacy Week celebrations in many of our schools last week and I made sure to RSVP to as many as I could. Choosing which events to attend was my biggest challenge as every school had an event, activity, or theme for each day of the week!

I kicked of my Literacy Week tour at Central Elementary. I got to be a Community Reader and choose two books, “The Old Woman and Her Pig” and “Three Billy Goats Gruff” to read to fourth grade classes. I was delighted to see other people in the community participating as community readers while I was there. I ran into Bubba Ramer from the City Recreation Dept, County Commissioner Karson Turner, as well as Superintendent Paul Puletti.

Eastside's Multi-Cultural Literacy Night offered an opportunity to dance to German music.

Eastside’s Multi-Cultural Literacy Night offered an opportunity to dance to German music.

Clewiston High School’s students and staff rolled out the red carpet for first grade students from Eastside, Westside and Central Elementary. CHS students decked the halls with Dr. Seuss decorations and guided the first graders through different literacy stations located throughout the campus. It was heartwarming to see the look of admiration in the eyes of the first graders and inspiring to see the leaders of tomorrow honing their leadership skills and nurturing a sense of community responsibility for literacy.

Eastside Elementary hosted an outstanding Multi-Cultural Literacy Night. Teachers and staff transformed the lunchroom into a multi-cultural party complete snacks, games, music, and engaging literacy stations highlighting different cultures. Ava Barrett from the Clewiston Public Library was in attendance getting families signed up up library cards and providing information on ways the public library supports community literacy.

County Commissioner Karson Turner took time out his schedule to be a Community Reader at Central Elementary.

County Commissioner Karson Turner took time out his schedule to be a Community Reader at Central Elementary.

Seeing a principal take a whipped cream pie in the face was all the reason I needed to load up and head over to LaBelle to Country Oaks Elementary! Mr. Sealey issued a challenge to students if they doubled their AR (Accelerated Reader) points goal, he would let them throw a pie at him. If they quadrupled their goal, they got to throw two pies. I’ll just say he had quite a group of motivated students with excellent aim and, since he was such a good sport, I couldn’t deny his request to throw a pie at me when students went back to class.

I want to say a heartfelt THANK YOU to the schools that invited me to participate in their Literacy Week celebrations. I’d also like to extend a very special THANK YOU to those who undoubtedly spent many hours outside of your contractual obligations to provide these wonderful experiences for our students. I appreciate those who go above and beyond for our students and make great things happen within our District.

A pie in the face courtesy of Mr. Sealey.

A pie in the face courtesy of Mr. Sealey.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. All views and opinions expressed are my own.

~ Stephanie

1/27 Meeting Recap

Paul Samerdyke, Guidance Counselor at Central Elementary, was presented with a plaque of appreciation for his many years of service to the students of Hendry County in honor of his upcoming retirement. Feb2_Principal Magazine 1

Stella Luckey, art teacher at Country Oaks Elementary, gave the Board an update on the Crayola Grant she procured on behalf of COES. Mrs. Luckey presented board members with a copy of Principal , a magazine published by Crayola, featuring an article that quotes Mr. Sealey and Mrs. Jones, principal and assistant principal, regarding the value of integrating art into academics. Fantastic photos of Mrs. Luckey’s Feb2_Principal Magazine 2students and their art were featured in the article as well.  You can check out Mrs. Luckey’s blog by clicking on the link.

The board voted unanimously to approve the tentative 2014-15 HCEA Collective Bargaining Agreement. You can see a copy of the tentative agreement at  Teachers will receive to a pay increase in accordance with the most recent salary schedules and can look forward to that increase being reflected in their next paycheck, in addition to retroactive pay dating back to July 1, 2014.

Board attorney Michael McKinley will receive an increase in compensation after the board voted unanimously in favor of a first amendment to his original contract dating back to February 2012. Mr. McKinley offered to conduct board member training sessions to assist board members with professional development. The board voted unanimously to attend a training facilitated by Mr. McKinley before the February 24 board meeting in LaBelle.

School board members were issued district email addresses to conduct all board related electronic correspondence. Below are a list of board members and our district email addresses.

Dwayne Brown:

Sally Berg:

Pat Langford:

Stephanie Busin:

Jon Basquin:

Again, thank you for taking time to read by blog and for the opportunity to serve Hendry County. All opinions expressed are my own.

~ Stephanie

Laurinda Barraza Selected as the 2015 School-Related Employee of the Year

Laurinda Barraza, Hendry County School District's School-Related Employee of the Year.

Laurinda Barraza, Hendry County School District’s School-Related Employee of the Year.

The Hendry County School District gathered today to acknowledge and celebrate school-related employees of the year from each school in the district. Each honoree was presented with a plaque and gift of appreciation from Superintendent Paul Puletti.

Mr. Puletti  shared personal stories about each honoree that reflected each of their high levels of dedication to the students of Hendry County. A key example being that a honoree, Silvia Pantoja from food service, made the decision today to miss the luncheon because her lunchroom would be short-staffed and she wanted to be there to make sure the students were fed.

After all honorees were acknowledged individually, Mr. Puletti announced that the selection committee had chosen Laurinda Barraza from Clewiston High School as Hendry County’s School-Related Employee of the Year for 2015.

Below is a list of all the honorees:

LaBelle area School-Related Employees of the Year Nominees.

LaBelle area School-Related Employees of the Year Honorees.

LaBelle High – Diane Raulerson

LaBelle Middle – Belinda Herrera

Country Oaks Elementary – Reyna Garza

LaBelle Elementary – Anita Lozano

Upthegrove Elementary – Chrissy Banda

Clewiston High – Laurinda Barraza

Clewiston Middle – Patricia Weston

Central Elementary – Inez Juarez

Clewiston area School-Related Employee of the Year Honorees

Clewiston area School-Related Employee of the Year Honorees

Eastside Elementary – Elizabeth Williams

Westside Elementary – Brenda Itzen

Federal Programs – Amy Plaza

Food Service – Silvia Pantoja

Exceptional Student Education – Charlene McCall

Clewiston Transportation – Deadra Mixon-Brown

LaBelle Transportation – Jerry Moore

Congratulations to Mrs. Barraza and thank you to each of the honorees for their service to our students.

~ Stephanie

1/13 Meeting Recap

ASUS Transformer Pad on top of printed board packets from three meetings.

ASUS Transformer Pad on top of printed board packets from three meetings.

It was a honor to present Mary Ann Jones (Central Elementary), with a plaque and express the appreciation of the school board for 30 years of dedicated service to begin the January 13 meeting.

A vote on the 2014-15 HCEA (Hendry County Education Association) Collective Bargaining Agreement was postponed to the scheduled January 27 meeting in LaBelle.

At the recommendation of District CFO Michael Yanosik, the board voted unanimously to release $194,156 from the General Committed Fund Balance to the Salary and Benefits Account to cover salary increases voted on and approved in the December 19 meeting.

According to Mr. Yanosik, FADSS (Florida Association of District School Superintendents) have requested school districts consider potential privatization options for district food service programs. The purpose of this request is to gather information and analyze whether privatization offers cost savings for school districts, and to analyze the pros and cons associated with privatizing a district food service program. The board voted unanimously to allow Mr. Yanosik to draft RFPs (Request for Proposals) to submit for the board’s consideration and possible approval. If a RFP is approved, it will be sent out to bid to food service management companies to aide in the Hendry County School Board’s study.

Board members were each issued an ASUS Transformer Pad TF103 to use for board member business, namely to digitally access board packets in lieu of receiving the printed and often lengthy board packets of years past. Printed packets were cumbersome, expensive, and time consuming for district staff to compile. I appreciate the improved environmental impact and the cost efficiency of receiving this information digitally.

The next scheduled school board meeting will be Tuesday, January 27, on the second floor of the Hendry County Courthouse, beginning at 5:30 pm. You can access an agenda and board packet at

Thank you for the honor of serving Hendry County and for taking time to read my blog. All views and opinions expressed are my own.

~ Stephanie

DOE’s Keep Florida Learning Committee Accepting Applications

Thank you for taking time to read my blog.

Florida’s Commissioner of Education, Pam Stewart, has announced an investigation of standardized testing in public schools in response to concerns voiced about the Statewide Assessment Program’s policies and procedures.

Commissioner Stewart indicated the Dept. of Education (DOE) will work with districts throughout the state to gather accurate information on tests administered to meet federal, state and local mandates for the purpose of increasing transparency regarding the use of standardized tests in public schools. DOE staff will assemble and analyze the data collected, and the findings will provide data on the number of standardized tests and the manner in which results are used by the DOE, school boards, and teachers.

Commissioner Stewart also announced the inception of the 11 member Keep Florida Learning Committee whose purpose will be to review opportunities for deregulation for school districts; review instructional material review processes used by school boards; determine parental involvement strategies; and review the implementation of the Florida Standards Assessments.

ANY FLORIDIAN interested in serving on the committee should submit an application to the DOE by visiting APPLICATION DEADLINE IS JANUARY 31, 2015. Commissioner Stewart will serve on the committee alongside 10 committee members that will include TEACHERS, superintendents, school board members, higher education representatives, legislators, and MEMBERS OF THE PUBLIC.

I’m planning to apply to serve on the committee and I encourage every teacher, principal, and parent to consider applying as well. It is my opinion that we desperately need representation from Hendry County and other small, rural districts on this committee.

Thank you for the opportunity to serve Hendry County! It’s the greatest job in the world!


New School Board Member. New Year. New Blog.

A very heartfelt THANK YOU for taking time to read my blog.

Happy New Year, Hendry County! It’s been a whirlwind since being sworn into the Hendry County School Board, District 4 seat on November 18. I’ve participated in two official board meetings, one executive session, and a four day Florida School Board Association conference.

I’m new to being a school board member, and blogging, and what I’m absolutely confident about at this point is what I don’t know far outweighs what I do know.  I’ve always been told that the only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time and as we enter 2015, I’m sitting at this proverbial table feeling hungry and determined.

My plan over the next couple of months is to spend time on each school campus in Hendry County. I’ve appreciated reading each school’s 2014-15 Continuous Improvement Model (formerly known as the School Improvement Plan) and feel like each one offered valuable insight into the instructional and extra-curricular priorities, as well as the culture of each campus. While the CIM’s are valuable tools that provide a great amount of insight, there is no greater teacher than experience. I’m looking forward to the experiences I will encounter and the education I will receive on Hendry County’s campuses in the coming months.

As a board, I feel we’re starting off 2015 on the right foot. A 2.19% raise for district HESPA employees was unanimously approved in the December 2014 meeting and the board unanimously voted to restructure meetings so that the first meeting of the month will be a workshop and the second meeting of the month will be our business meeting.  In my opinion, having a workshop each month is essential to having the knowledge, as a board, to build and manage the district’s budget.

I’d like to personally invite you to attend our next school board meeting on Tuesday, January 13, at the Clewiston Sub-Office Boardroom located at 475 E. Osceola Avenue at 5:30 pm for our first business meeting of 2015.

Thank you for the privilege of serving Hendry County. I am honored and humbled.