CHIPLEY – Superintendents at Washington County and Holmes County school districts spell out what they believe contributed to respective district and school grades released last week by Florida Department of Education.
Washington County School District improved its grade to a “B” from a “C.” And, for its sixth year, Holmes County School District maintained a “C” grade. Both counties have about 3,100 students, respectively.
“I give credit to the teachers, the staff and the schools,” said Washington County’s Superintendent Joseph Taylor. “To hard work from parents and students.”
The letter grade improvement was due to “drilling down” on subjects that needed more attention, Taylor said in an interview Friday.
“We took a look at our data,” he said, “into drilling down to what areas we needed to focus on, which were reading and science.”
While three out of six Washington County schools maintained their grades and two improved, one school, Kate M. Smith Elementary, dropped from an “A” grade to a “B.” Taylor attributes the drop to a reorganization of primary school grade levels.
“We had moved the 5th grade out of the middle school, back to the elementary,” Taylor said. “There’s a different grading dynamic from K to 4th, to K to 5th; so it changed the dynamics of how to grade and how things are counted.”
Speaking generally of his district’s grade, he added, “We were pleased, it was very positive.”
However, Holmes County’s Superintendent Terry Mears was not as satisfied with the grade his district received.
“Obviously, I’m not satisfied with being a “C” district,” Mears said in an interview Monday. “I’m looking into what we can do to improve upon the success that we’ve obtained while my short period in office.”
Mears, who was elected in November last year, touted improvements in graduation rates through academic intervention programs. Such interventions will be utilized more in the future in order to pull his district out of its academic plateau.
Three of seven Holmes County schools improved grades, the others maintained, with the exception of K-12 consolidated high school Bethlehem. The district’s only “A” school Bonifay Elementary has improved each year for the past three years.
“We’re looking at where our weaknesses are – in (English Language Arts) and mathematics, in our end of course exams,” Mears said. The district will use professional development – specialized training for faculty and staff -- to “focus on intervention to improve those scores.”
Mears said his leadership team on the district level is working to support leadership teams at schools.
“We’re going to continue on a positive note,” he said. “I won’t be satisfied until we have a 100 percent graduation rate and all of our schools are A’s.”