BONIFAY — Holmes County school board members Tuesday stalled on filling a position that would give half its student body a chance at a popular state scholarship.
In the district, 248 students are expected to be taking a first or second year Spanish course in the coming school year. The base requirement to qualify for Florida’s Bright Futures scholarship, a lottery-funded scholarship which can pay for the entirety of a four-year university education, is two years of a high school foreign language course. School board members were split Tuesday 3-2 on hiring a teacher for 140 of Holmes County students.
While Holmes County School has one full-time Spanish teacher for its 120 students, Superintendent Eddie Dixon made the suggestion board members approve hiring a second for a salary of $40,000 to teach the remaining 128 students expected to take Spanish in the district. However, board member Shirley Owens moved that the board table the item to look at whether a computer program would be a better decision.
“This estimate was based on a $40,000 salary figure which could vary depending on the number of years they teach,” Owens said. “Then there’s health insurance that we absorb. I don’t think we should jump into it quickly.”
Spanish courses from Florida Virtual School cost $650 per student — coming out to $83,200, according to Dixon’s projections. A new teacher and use of Edgeunity, another education software, could come out to cost $66,300.
Board members Jason Motley and Sid Johnson, who held the dissenting votes, said even if the cost of a teacher increases the experience of having a live person to bounce questions or concepts off of has a value.
“I like the hands on experience of having the teacher present,” Johnson said.
The $40,000 estimate used by Dixon is derived from estimates of a first-year teacher’s salary, but factors other than money could determine the board’s final decision. Though the virtual class may not have an educational edge, other than being standardized, over a live teacher; computer programs do not have a preference or decision in where they relocate.
“This could be a moot point,” Dixon said. “We may advertise it and not be able to find someone who wants the job. We’re a small county and our neighbors pay more than we do.”
Even if the district could find a fresh-out-of-college teacher, a teacher’s contract is also required to be renewed annually.
“The shiniest penny gets the most attention,” Dixon added.
Board chairman Rusty Williams cast the deciding vote in favor of tabling the decision. He was clear that he wanted a decision by the end of the board’s next meeting in July to meet the scheduling deadline for the approaching school year.