HENDRY/GLADES COUNTIES — Scott Bass, superintendent of the Glades County public schools, has picked up where former County Manager Paul Carlisle left off in leading the way toward getting training programs established at the Glades County Regional Training Facility (GCRTF).
Mr. Bass spoke about the progress he’s been making in reports recently to both the Glades and Hendry county boards, and received support and encouragement in both commission chambers. The two counties already have thrown some of their weight behind the effort, pledging $20,000 each earlier this year toward getting a person to take charge of programming. It may not be clear, however — at least until after their next joint commissioners’ meeting, set for 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, June 12, at the GCRTF — whether a director will be sought.
That’s because in the past six weeks or so, while Mr. Carlisle was transitioning into his new role as Sebastian’s city manager, Mr. Bass has made some astonishing strides toward getting more participants around the table to pitch in and make things happen.
As Hendry County Commissioner Michael Swindle put it on May 22 as he told his fellow commissioners about Mr. Bass’s efforts: “The best thing that could happen, is happening. Superintendent Bass has taken the reins and is running like a stallion.”
He gave a report to the Glades commissioners at their last meeting, Tuesday, May 29, saying that he’d met with Mr. Carlisle about six weeks ago to see where efforts stood.
“The school district is at a disadvantage because of finances and numbers of students, so we looked at this and, really, the best way for us to try to urge something to go out there is to reach out to a postsecondary institution and have them come in, offer courses, we have an articulation agreement with them and we have an MOU (memorandum of understanding) with you for the use of the facility, and basically it would be that institution providing services to our community and students. That’s really the best way to go,” Mr. Bass explained, adding that he’s approached three institutions so far.
“I met with Fort Myers Technical College soon after Mr. Carlisle and I had met,” he went on, “and we talked about diesel mechanics, and HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning), and then just recently had another conversation about a potential law enforcement academy. They offer that in Fort Myers at FMTC, (but) they’re out of space. Their executive director came over, and he’s very interested in offering something here. He is trying to get permission to move forward from (acting) Superintendent (Greg) Adkins; he has not heard anything yet. I’m going to reach out to Greg myself and see if I can’t urge him a little bit with that.” Mr. Bass also reported that last Thursday, June 1, he met with officials of iTech, the Immokalee Technical College run by the Collier County School District, who came to tour the GCRTF. “(Collier) Superintendent (Kamela) Patton and I have talked, and she has given the green light for (iTech Principal) Dorin Oxender to move forward to seeing what programs he can potentially offer there through iTech. I know right now, we have got students who are going to iTech for different things,” he added.
“Then, thirdly — and this is the one that we’ve gotten a commitment from — when Paul came to me, I had already had some preliminary discussions with FGCU (Florida Gulf Coast University). FGCU has been wanting to do something out either in Hendry or Glades County for a couple of years now. And when we met, it just so happened the timing matched up, and FGCU was looking to put in a grant proposal for a seed grant which would enhance education in rural areas.
“Now, this is not the direction I would like to go first, but it is an option that came up to us,” Mr. Bass said. He went on to explain that FGCU has named the Glades district as its main partner in the grant application, which won’t be decided on until 2019. “Basically what the grant would do is … take our existing educators who did not go to college to be a teacher, and go through the alternative certification route to help them get specially certified. I got to President Michael Martin, the new president at FGCU … and he’s committed $68,000 toward starting something next year,” he said.
“So it’s real exciting, and I’ll just say this,” Superintendent Bass finished, “both the FMTC director and the dean of education from FGCU were blown away by the facility and what it has to offer, and they had no idea that it was here and are very excited. You know, we’ve got three lines in the water now and hopefully we’ll get a bite on one of them.”
Glades County Board Chairman John Ahern commended Mr. Bass on his progress. “We certainly appreciate everything you’re doing. We realize that you’re in the education business, and we’re not, and we certainly need help,” Mr. Ahern said. Mr. Bass responded that he was “looking forward to getting (new Glades interim manager) Joe Helfenberger on board.”
Mr. Ahern, noting that the next Glades-Hendry joint meeting was coming up soon, a luncheon meeting at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, June 12, said “we certainly invite you to that meeting.”