School board tackles books, energy savings and outgoing staff

By Nick Blank nick@claytodayonline.com
Posted 7/6/22

FLEMING ISLAND – The recent school board meeting saw a national issue converge with Clay County when leaders debated the content of students’ reading material.

Two speakers were about to read …

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School board tackles books, energy savings and outgoing staff

Posted

FLEMING ISLAND – The recent school board meeting saw a national issue converge with Clay County when leaders debated the content of students’ reading material.

Two speakers were about to read graphic material from books present in Clay schools before their mics were cut. They wanted more accountability for vulgar material they were sensitive to.

“When an author has a text pulled, do you look at all the other efforts from the same author?” resident Bruce Friedman asked. “Is there any mechanism, any accountability anywhere?”

Ruth Bannon brought “Tricks,” a book by Ellen Hopkins and Bannon read a summary.

“How does this improve anybody’s character, your ability to get a scholarship?” Bannon said.

Gov. Ron DeSantis in March signed HB 1467, which will create lists of books in elementary school libraries. Additionally, the public must be informed of approving new instructional books and any objections to the material can be documented by the state. It became law on July 1.

To adhere closer to the law, Clay board members unanimously passed six resolutions Thursday night amending policies and procedures.

Chief Academic Officer Roger Dailey said there are about 100,000 library materials procured throughout the years within the district. Dailey said the new laws give a district a greater chance to evaluate itself.

“There’s no perfect policy,” Dailey said.

The 67 school districts are now in uncharted waters, Dailey added.

“It’s a school district’s job to teach students how to think, not what to think,” Dailey said. “So, a parent’s right to weigh in on what’s relative to their value system is something that now has been put into law.”

Like several members of the board, Board Member Ashley Gilhousen said objectionable material will be removed. Her closing comments focused on the board, staff, community members and students working together.

“I think it’s important that we all as a community are vigilant about what’s in front of our kids,” Gilhousen said. Board Member Beth Clark said every county is dealing with what’s deemed inappropriate material. She didn’t want teachers vilified and disapproved of “shock and awe” tactics. Clark said she wanted parents to know the district is working hard.

“It’s not like we don’t know about this ... we’re not denying any parent the fact that we know it’s there,” Clark said.

The district was also honored for cutting back on its carbon footprint, by the firm Cenergistic. Energy specialist Roseann Jolley said the district cut its footprint by 23% in a six-year period. She presented district leaders with a banner and plaque.

“That reduced carbon footprint, to put it in perspective, is the equivalent of 136 million miles driven, the CO2 that would be generated,” she said. “That’s pretty impressive.”

In other business, the district honored 126 retirees from the previous school year. According to the organization, the teachers and staff members accumulated 2,779 years of service.

“They each left footprints on not just the hearts and minds of students they served, but also those who worked alongside them,” Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Brenda Troutman said.

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