School board workshop tackles multiple issues

Wesley LeBlanc
Posted 2/21/18

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – The Clay County School Board is exploring ways to help school district staff offset recent increases in health insurance.

During a Feb. 20 agenda-setting workshop, the …

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School board workshop tackles multiple issues


GREEN COVE SPRINGS – The Clay County School Board is exploring ways to help school district staff offset recent increases in health insurance.

During a Feb. 20 agenda-setting workshop, the school board discussed the feasibility of paying a portion of district employee’s health insurance to help offset recent price increases from United Healthcare.

“I’m just asking that if we could look at contributing something for the remainder of this [school year] to help offset the premiums,” board member Janice Kerekes said. “Our employees are struggling and I just think that we need to do something to try and help.”

This item would see the estimated 3,100 employees who have chosen to use the county’s insurance, of a total of roughly 4,800 staff, receive funds for the next four months of the school year to go towards paying insurance premiums. This plan would cost an estimated $360,000 of the district’s $390 million, according to Kerekes, who also said the board could consider dipping into the reserves if necessary to handle the one-time assistance.

Earlier in the workshop, the board agreed to pull a consent agenda item that would see supplemental funds removed from department heads to further discuss it during the discussion agenda section of the upcoming March 1 school board meeting. These proposed changes would see roughly $698,000 removed from department heads. Superintendent Addison Davis stresses that this proposal does not remove department heads but rather, the supplemental funds they are now paid.

“I’m not saying that we get rid of department heads. I’m just saying that we remove supplements,” Davis said. “Around $2,200 [per department head] goes to department heads in our school district and that impacts around 285 employees and I believe that this money, in trying to be proactive, can go towards helping with insurance.”

In other business, Davis gave board members an update on his goal of establishing a Montessori program at one of the district’s elementary schools. He said he has identified Swimming Pen Creek Elementary as the host school for the Montessori program.

According to the American Montessori Society, the Montessori Method of Education is “a child-centered educational approach based on scientific observations of children from birth to adulthood,” their site reads. “It is a view of the child as one who is naturally eager for knowledge and capable of initiating learning in a supportive, thoughtfully prepared learning environment. It is an approach that values the human spirit and the development of the whole child—physical, social, emotional, cognitive.

If implemented, two classrooms at Swimming Pen Creek Elementary School would be dedicated to Montessori education for ages four to six and another two classrooms for ages six to nine. Each age group would learn together in the classroom, yielding an opportunity for not just the older to teach the younger, but vice versa as well, according to a video presented by Davis, and each classroom would have one teacher and one assistant.

In terms of costs, the curriculum and furnishings would cost the county $110,000 and another $40,000 for training. Davis wants to train teachers already in the county rather than hire Montessori-trained teachers from outside the school district. Davis believes Swimming Pen Creek Elementary School to be a good fit for the county’s first Montessori classrooms because of its location.

“We believe [Swimming Pen Creek Elementary School] is a good central location and we believe it has a leader that’s hungry and willing to learn,” Davis said.

Davis said Montessori classrooms won’t push students out of Swimming Pen Creek Elementary School, but instead said he believes the neighborhood children of this school will want to take part in this opportunity.

“I believe neighborhood kids will be excited for this opportunity and transition into this [Montessori School],” Davis said.

While the board has more questions regarding the potential Montessori School, especially Montessori education growth in the district and teacher evaluations, the board elected to discuss the issue at its March 1 meeting.

In other business, the board will once again discuss House Bill 7069 at the next meeting and whether the district should rescind its Feb. 1 vote to leave the lawsuit regarding the massive education bill passed during the 2017 legislature.

Finally, Davis also presented the board information that would expand the Dual Enrollment program between Santa Fe College and Keystone Heights High School to allow tenth grade students to enter the program. Currently, Dual Enrollment is open to only eleventh and twelfth grade students.


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