Walton County Schools

Discussion in 'Local Government and Groups' started by DaleDalbey, Aug 27, 2012.

  1. DaleDalbey

    DaleDalbey Beach Fanatic

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    I know this will probably create a firestorm, but here goes...

    I have a son at Butler Elementary. I hear all the time from other parents how "great" the school is and how it is the best in Walton County. I am not sure that saying a school is the best in Walton County means that a school is great compared to quality schools elsewhere. It concerns me that Butler is an "A" school, but almost 25 percent of the students do not pass sections of the FCAT. That seems like a "C" school to me. It is, however, better than most other schools in Walton County (SeaSide Charter has better). South Walton High has worse scores than 83 percent of the schools in the state. That is right, its scores only only better than 17 percent of the schools, though it will be given a "B" by the state-developed scoring system.

    Answers I hear from long-time locals are: "You should have seen how bad the schools were 30 years ago." Or, "We have great schools here. THey are all A and B schools"

    My questions are: How do our graduation rates, ACT scores, and admission to competitive colleges (not NWFCC) stack up to great school systems around the state or county?

    Why are South Walton High's test scores so bad?

    What options for other schools do parents avail themselves of to ensure their kids are getting a great education?

    Why are we settling for limited AP courses, and no IB courses at our schools? Can't we do better for our kids?
     
  2. Jdarg

    Jdarg SoWal Expert

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    My answers are probably going to start a firestorm, but I love to stir the pot when it comes to education in Walton County.
    I have had many of the same questions since moving here 6 years ago, then I realized I was comparing apples to oranges. Walton County is really a rural county, and doesn't have the population or money to be compared to the larger school systems that many of us were accustomed to in terms of graduation rates, college board test scores, etc. We have one public high school that has to serve all families in South Walton. It has been a tough road, and it is still a struggle for the involved parents at SWHS, but we have seen overall improvements every year since we have been here. It can't be what we want (and need) it to be overnight, but the parent momentum builds more and more every year. It is still a relatively new school, and SoWal has exploded in population, so there is a lot of catchup to do with limited resources.

    Every year more and more kids from SWHS are going to 4 year universities, and competitive ones. Unfortunately the school doesn't "toot it's own horn" enough, and needs to really be broadcasting the good news throughout the community. There are some fantastic teachers at SWHS.

    Seaside better be a top rated school as they have 100% parent participation- as in, every family there made a conscious decision to put their kid in the lottery as a start! Another apples to oranges comparison.

    Collegiate High School is an option if you like the dual enrollment, a wonderful program. What they don't tell you about dual is that while your kid will get out with an associates degree, those credits don't transfer to many places out of state, especially competitive upper tier universities and privates. We went the AP route at SWHS, because our son was applying to schools that would not have accepted the credits from NWFSC.

    Bottom line? It is up to parents to keep the pressure on the Walton County School District. Sadly, there are is still a large number of parents who are OK with where we are right now. SWHS has some work to do, and there is a very dedicated group of parents, admin, and teachers that are working very hard this year, with additional motivation coming out of Emerald Coast Middle School. IMO, ECMS is the school to watch, and will be the driving force in the continued improvements at SWHS, as the parents coming out of ECMS will be very demanding in terms of academic options and quality.

    Another difference here is that the bigger players in our economy (realtors, vacation rental companies, developers) are not as involved in the community support of our schools as major economic interests are in larger communities. Individual businesses owned by families with children at the schools are the biggest supporters. I would love to see big real estate companies and developers band together and help with things like technology grants, funding for additional staff positions (like a part time college counselor at SWHS), etc.- needs that we have that will never be paid for out of the district money. We will have to do it ourselves, and maybe the businesses that tout our schools as so great when they are selling the area and homes should play a part in making sure the schools are as great as they are telling potential clients. ;)
     
  3. Kurt Lischka

    Kurt Lischka Admin Staff Member

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    Great thread and great response Jdarg! Thank you.
     
  4. j p nettles

    j p nettles Banned

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    Another poster suggested that the system by which schools are rated is flawed. That is an understatement. FCAT isn't the gold standard. Somebody has lost sight of the fact that the ultimate goal is to prepare students for college and meaningful careers. The first step is to teach children to read. But the best teachers in grades 1 through 3 aren't the best available and this is reflected in the experience level and education of Walton's teachers. If children have average teachers in the early grades they aren't going to perform as well in the upper grades. My son graduated from South Walton High in 2010 and did very well and earned a Bright Futures scholarship. He had some problems in elementary school but fortunately his mother was an experienced elementary teacher so she saw to it that he learned. Speaking of Butler Elementary, her one interview out of more than 50 applications was at Butler. The day after the interview she was notified that a 'better' candidate was hired. Wow, that teacher must have been something. My wife has a masters degree, 32 years experience and outstanding student performance. 4 of those years was in Walton schools. She's also over 50. The truth is that the quality of education in Walton County is falling because teacher quality is beginning to lag for cost considerations. That's a fact.
     
  5. DaleDalbey

    DaleDalbey Beach Fanatic

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    Thanks for the input, Jdarg. I want to share some additional thoughts.

    While Walton County may be rural, South Walton County is developing quickly. Good schools are essential to continued positive growth. Without good schools, our kids will be working low-wage jobs dependent on tourism for the rest of their lives.

    SWHS has some things that should be working in its favor that other urban school systems do not have. We have a very small (in comparison) ESL (English as second language) population in the area. This means that fewer resources have to be spent on this issue. SWHS looks bad even compared to inner city schools in the state's largest areas. Maybe not from a crime standpoint, but definitely academically. Being new to the area, I did not get to be as involved with elections as much as I will be in the future, but our school board and superintendant need to be held accountable.

    This whole "A" school designation is a ruse to make us feel better. It is amazing to me that very few of our schools ever passed their AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress) requirements when they were mandatory. So what does the state do? Asks for an exemption and all of the schools that could not pass AYP standards become "A" schools.

    My mother always says... "You will get out of life what you expect to get out of life." Same thing goes for our schools. If we expect and demand and work toward excellence, we will get it. I believe when we say things like..."we are making progress" or "you can't turn it around overnight", we are allowing parents, teachers, administrators and elected officials off the hook. Why can't we fix it? I do not have 30 years to look back and say, schools are better now than they were. Every day my child is not in the best classroom possible with the best teachers possible is a day that I regret.

    As a side note, all of us with kids in the school system received a form from the Panhandle Education Consortium regarding medical permissions. I would not sign it. Several reasons, but one of them was that there were grammatical errors in the form that a 3rd grader should have caught. Misusing "it's" when "its" was appropriate. Using the word "hospitable" instead of "hospital". I corrected it in red pen and sent it back with a "C-" on it. To think these are the people setting policy for my child's education and they either cannot proofread (grade a test) or don't know that it is wrong in the first place. Sad!

    Being from Birmingham, I have seen areas that were unhappy with the county school system actually separate from the county and form their own local school system. I am not familiar with Florida law, but I think that is an idea worth exploring for South Walton. Sometimes with a county as geographically and culturally diverse as Walton is, it may be that educational goals and desires are very different from area to area. We should be able to adjust for that by forming our own system, using the local tax base to support the schools, and having more local control regarding expectations. I will tell you that if a move to do just that began and was led by parents, the school board, superintendent and commissioners would sit up and take notice very quickly.
     
  6. Jdarg

    Jdarg SoWal Expert

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    WaltonParent- welcome aboard! There are many parents already involved in the South Walton schools that have the same thoughts and comments as you. I would suggest getting very involved in your school, and keep abreast of school and district news. Also keep an eye and ear out for more of the county visioning meetings, as the educational future of the SoWal schools is an important part of that process as well.
     
  7. FlutterBy

    FlutterBy Beach Comber

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    Hello fellow concerned parents. As a lifelong Florida resident, part-time 30-A resident, and mom of five, I cannot say enough good things about Florida Virtual School. My eldest daughter graduated from high school in 11th grade technically, due to being able to take online classes and work ahead. She took these classes while attending public school. Her senior year was spent at college and graduated summa cum laude. I have to give FLVS so much credit for allowing her to take AP classes and working at her own pace. She was able to hold down a job and do all that because of the flexibilty. My youngest son started Kindergarten this year in FLVS and we are really enjoying it!
    To make it short, FLVS can be another tool in your educational toobox. And it's FREE! Best wishes to all :)
     
  8. DaleDalbey

    DaleDalbey Beach Fanatic

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    Hey, I looked at Virtual School and am looking for some help. I do not want my son to leave Butler to go to virtual school full-time, but would like for him to take some of the classes through virtual school for enrichment purposes. Spanish in particular. Is there a way I can do that? All advice appreciated.
     
  9. Camp Creek Kid

    Camp Creek Kid Christini Zambini

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    You need to speak with the principal at Butler. Students must have permission from their school in order to register for FLVS classes.
     
  10. DaleDalbey

    DaleDalbey Beach Fanatic

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    Thanks. On my list. If I can get Mrs Smith to talk to me.
     
  11. Jdarg

    Jdarg SoWal Expert

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    Our oldest took Latin on FLVS when he was at SWHS. The teachers were challenging and demanding, the classes were organized and somewhat interactive, and surprisingly, the he had a lot of contact with the teachers. I don't know if all FLVS classes are so good, but we had a wonderful experience with the Latin.

    I think a student has to be at least in middle school? Or are there classes for elementary?
     
  12. meggiemom

    meggiemom Beach Lover

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    I've been told that the school district is hiring temporary elementary teachers long enough to report to the DOE to comply with the class size law. After that my understanding is that the state won't check to see if the class size law is being complied with so class sizes are likely to be larger than the law is supposed to allow. Butler is advertising for 8 or 9 temporary teachers.
     
  13. DaleDalbey

    DaleDalbey Beach Fanatic

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    I am wondering if it is for DOE or the election. Once again politics and looking good with no substance behind it prevails. If we reelect these people, we get what we deserve, but our kids still deserve better.
     
  14. j p nettles

    j p nettles Banned

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    I can show you e-mails from the DOE stating that it has very little control over local school districts and never undermines decisions local school districts make. It really doesn't matter who serves on the board since they always rubber stamp the decisions of the superintendent which is a rather screwed up chain of command. Also the only new board member will be a member of Mrs. Anderson's circle, replacing retiring member Wilkerson. Mr. Davis ran unopposed and he actually is the only board member who seems to be competent. The board chairman, Mr. Wallace ran on his business "expertise", namely being on the board of BTFG, a failed bank holding company and one of the many banks that made bad real estate loans. So we're stuck with the board and their one monthly 30 minute meeting. I do see that they have scheduled a special meeting for this evening at 5:00 so I would urge everyone to come see the dog and pony show.
     
  15. meggiemom

    meggiemom Beach Lover

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    I'd really like to go to school board meetings but it's hard for people who work to be in DeFuniak Springs at 9:00AM. I almost get the impression that they don't want people to go to board meetings. And didn't they used to meet twice a month? If they're only meeting once a month, the board ought to have a 50% pay cut.
     
  16. j p nettles

    j p nettles Banned

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    You didn't miss anything at the called meeting at 5:00 this evening. It lasted 10 minutes. The board approved every recommendation of the superintendent. It must be a tough job to rubber stamp everything without discussion.
     
  17. ann watson

    ann watson Banned

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    A couple of weeks ago there was an article in USA Today saying that most of the teachers in the US are now a lot less experienced than in the past. That certainly is true in Walton County where the most experienced teachers are replaced with entry level teachers to avoid having to deal with the union contract. Teachers with graduate degrees in Florida seems quite low and in Walton county, teachers with graduate degrees is below the state average. Is this in the best interest of our children?
     
  18. sunspotbaby

    sunspotbaby SoWal Insider

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    Geez, are whips & chains involved?
     
  19. dkiess3

    dkiess3 Beach Crab

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    Speaking as a former student of the Okaloosa County school system I'll put in my two bits. While thinking about high schools 7 years ago we did the normal thing and looked everywhere from Niceville, FWBHS, the Collegiate and even SWHS. Needless to say SWHS was on the bottom of the list. Back then I had friends in Walton county that would drive from Walton county to Niceville every day just so their kids would have a good education. I don't know if things have changed but you could always get a waiver for your kid if you're that concerned about SWHS.

    Comparatively speaking, I don't think SWHS is THAT bad of a school. I knew kids that went there. It's all about how motivated the student is to go to college. As long as there are AP courses offered and the kid does well. They'll get into a good school. Yes, SWHS has a ways to go, but I know they are working hard to improve. I went to FWBHS until my senior year then transferred to a school in Walton County Georgia. You think our school system is bad. HA. This was one of the best schools in the area and it was nothing special. Florida's school system is fine.
     
  20. hkem1

    hkem1 Beach Fanatic

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    http://www.greatschools.org/cgi-bin/fl/other/5277#from..HeaderLink
     

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