CHS students earn college credits

HENDRY COUNTY — Hendry County School Board members received an update about the Clewiston High School Collegiate Academy at their July 17 meeting. Jose Roquett, administrator of the Collegiate Academy, and Amanda Lehrian, director of the Florida Southwestern State College (FSW) Hendry Glades Curtis Center, said the Collegiate Academy is a first-of-its-kind program for FSW and CHS. While FSW provides dual enrollment for local high school students at all four college locations, the distance from CHS to any FSW location can make travel difficult for students.

When the program was introduced, there were 47 students in the first semester, and at the end of the first semester they added five more, making it 52 total students enrolled in the program. Currently, 75 students are enrolled in the Collegiate Academy and, according to Mr. Roquett, the program will top out with 80 students. The professors who teach there have given all positive feedback on the students and their willingness to learn.

At the end of the first semester, the students earned a combined 700 college credits, and 90 percent of the grades were As and Bs. The average grade point average for these students was 3.54, which is a high B, and it beat the other dual-enrollment programs on all the FSW campuses.

Neither the students nor their guardians pay for the credit hours. The Hendry school district pays FSW a reduced rate per credit-hour from funds provided in the Florida Education Finance Program.

The district’s school grades were also presented at the meeting. Dr. Barbara Mundy, director of federal programs, explained the scoring system. Overall, HCSD had a C average, with 576 points for 2017-18. This was 52 percent of the possible points, and a 30-point gain over 2016-17, when the district had 50 percent of the possible points. In 2015-16, the district had 48 percent of the possible points.

Each school is graded based on the components for which it has sufficient data.

School grades provide an easily understandable way to measure the performance of a school. Parents and the general public can use the school grade and its components to understand how well each school is serving its students. Schools are graded A, B, C, D or F.

In 2017-18, a school’s grade may include up to 11 components. There are four achievement components, four learning gains components, a middle school acceleration component, as well as components for graduation rate and college and career acceleration. Each component is worth up to 100 points in the overall calculation.

Letter grades of each school in the district were presented:
• LaBelle Middle School held steady from 2017 with a C average in 2018.
• Clewiston Middle School held steady from 2017 with a C average in 2018.
• LaBelle Elementary School dropped from a C in 2017 average to an F in 2018.
• Westside Elementary School improved from a D in 2017 to a C in 2018.
• Eastside Elementary School jumped from a D in 2017 to a B in 2018.
• Central Elementary School rose from a C in 2017 to a B in 2018.
• LaBelle High School held steady with a C average.
• Country Oaks Elementary School climbed from a C in 2017 to a B in 2018.
• Edward A. Upthegrove Elementary held steady with a C from 2017 to 2018.
• Clewiston High School held steady also with a C from 2017 to 2018.

LES received one of 33 F scores in the state. Improvement plans for LES still are being implemented. The school has one year to improve to a C before further action is taken by the state.

Raises for the school board members were also discussed.

In February of this year, District 4 School Board member Stephanie Busin announced during board member business that she had “made the personal decision to forgo the raise from the legislature, because district-level administration reported that it wasn’t going to be possible for the board to offer a raise to our instructional staff. That was hard on my heart. I believe in the importance of supporting and compensating school-level staff as they are our ‘boots on the ground’ and the ones who are ultimately held accountable for student outcomes.”

At that time, Ms. Busin asked the rest of the board to consider this option. Three other board members agreed that this was a very good idea and opted to forgo their raises as well.

Later, in June, Superintendent Paul Puletti informed the board that a contract was agreed to by both the negotiation team and the Hendry County Education Association. Due to a surplus in funding, the new contract would include a raise for teachers. After Ms. Busin inquired about resuming her legislature-approved raise going forward, the other school board members were contacted and given the same option.

At the July 17 meeting, District 3 School Board member Amanda Nelson and District 2 member Sally Berg announced that they will be dividing and giving back a portion of their raise money to each Hendry County school. Both members will be traveling to all 12 schools to deliver a check to the principals to “do with as they see fit.” Ms. Nelson stated, “We had already decided to decline the raise, and I feel that donating the money back to the schools rather than being reimbursed is the right thing to do. There are no strings attached, and each administrator can use the funds in whatever capacity they need.”

In other business, Marc Waddell, who recently retired from his teaching position at Clewiston High, was honored. Mr. Waddell was presented a plaque for his 11 years of service to the district by School Board Chairman Jon Basquin and Superintendent Puletti.

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