Happy Independence Day

Happy Independence Day

Today and each fourth of July our great country commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, declaring our independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain.

Our Second President of these United States wrote to his wife, “… July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.

As we enjoy the day let us also pause and thank the great men and women who have sacrificed that we might live in this great Republic!

 

FSBA Legislative Platform Saw Progress During Session

FSBA Legislative Platform Saw Progress During Session

Thank you to the Legislature and Governor DeSantis for their work in supporting these important needs for our students and schools.

This past year I had the honor of working with Florida School Board Association leaders and its members on FSBA’s 2019 Legislative priorities on the FSBA Legislative Committee and as FSBA’s Advocacy sub-committee Chairman.  As you can see from this report FSBA saw many of its priorities make notable progress by the passage of several bills and Governor DeSantis’s executive orders. Thank you to the Legislature and Governor DeSantis for their work in supporting these important needs for our students and schools.

We look forward to continuing to work together in the upcoming 2020 Florida legislative session.

Blessings Board Tours County Neighborhoods

Blessings Board Tours County Neighborhoods

Yesterday as both a Citrus County Blessings Board of Directors member and a representative of the Citrus County School Board, I joined many of our Blessings Board members on a tour of our county’s neighborhoods to see where many of our Blessing’s students live to have a better understanding of how we can continue to help our students and families.

The morning began in Lecanto at the County Community Center where Blessings rents their office and storage.  We boarded a standard issue Citrus School Bus and traveled through Homosassa and Crystal River neighborhoods. We stopped at one of Blessings major partners, Citrus County’s Community Food Bank.  The Food Bank (as it is often referred too) is home to their 7,200 sq. ft. food warehouse. The Food Bank is the largest food supplier to Blessings and over 50 other food pantries throughout Citrus County and surrounding counties.  Blessings purchases food each year from the Food Bank at significate savings then if we purchased the food direct. It is the savings that allows Blessings to better serve the near 1,400 students that are food-insecure in Citrus County.

Next, the bus traveled through the neighborhoods of Floral City and Inverness stopping at Withlacoochee Technical College, where another major partner of Blessings is based, the Citrus County Education Foundation. Executive Director Shaunda Burdette and Associate Director Susan Frampton tour us through the CCEF “teacher store”.  At this ALL FREE store, teachers may “shop” for supplies for their students and classrooms.  Blessings operates a section of the store, Blessings supplies snacks for teachers to provide to students in their classroom. Last school year CCEF provides approximately $50,000 in supplies from the CCEF Teacher’s Store.  While at CCEF Ms. Burdette and Ms. Frampton provided a lovely lunch for Blessings. This gave both CCEF and Blessings an opportunity to share about the work we are doing individually and collectively.  During lunch Blessing’s Grace Hengesbach shared the connection between CCEF and Blessings, as we are the only two organizations whose sole purpose is to meet the needs of our Citrus County students.

Next, the bus headed to the neighborhoods in Hernando, Dunnellon and Beverly Hills. Our school bus driver was so valuable to the knowledge and better understanding we learned this day. Throughout our journey, our bus driver would point out the areas our students lived and help us better understand about our student’s lives.

I want to thank Blessings outgoing Executive Director, Grace Hengesbach and incoming Executive Director, Connie Storms for all their work putting together this incredibly informative day.

To learn more about Blessings and for those wishing to volunteer or donate to Citrus County Blessings please visit the website at: www.citruseducation.org

Operation Neptune 75 years later

Operation Neptune 75 years later

On this the 75th anniversary of ‘Operation Neptune’ and often referred to as D-Day, that began on June 6, 1944. The Normandy landings was the largest seaborne invasion in history. We cannot begin to thank enough the ‘Greatest Generation’ in all of history for their sacrifice for our freedoms and opportunities.

Citrus School Board 2019 Summer Communication

Citrus School Board 2019 Summer Communication

RECORD-BREAKING YEAR FOR STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT

Follow this link below to the Citrus County School Board’s 2019 Summer Communication.  Learn about the many sucesses and accolades of your Citrus County Schools.  Read about; Parent Tips for Summer Reading, Recommended Books for Summer Reading, Summer Feeding Program, Meet Your Teacher dates for the 2019-2020 School Year and more.

Read and download CCSB 2019 Summer Communication – https://thomastalks.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/CCSB-Summer-Communication-2019.pdf

State Graduation requirements must stop being about passing a test

State Graduation requirements must stop being about passing a test

“Failing to pass one or more of these required tests is a tragic consequence for a student’s lack of test taking skills or a myriad of other reasons why a student can pass a course, demonstrate mastery of the subject but fail a standardized test. It is a lifelong penalty.”

This week Citrus County Schools will graduate approximately a thousand high school students.  Most are excited about their future and the opportunities that await them.  Sadly, we had a number of students that walked for graduation but that will not receive their high school diploma. One might think it is because they didn’t finish all their courses, or didn’t have a high enough GPA— they would be wrong. Yes, there are a few of those students, but we have dozens and dozens of students in Citrus, and thousands around the state of Florida who have completed all the requirements to graduate but because they cannot pass one or two required tests, even though they have passed the course, they will not graduate. These are students that when I was in high school would have successfully graduated, but for the last decade these student must pass these high stakes tests and if not cannot graduate.

Jeffrey Solochek, education reporter for the Tampa Bay Times, today wrote another excellent article sharing about this issue and the numbers this year in Florida. (See; “How many Florida seniors are stalled by graduation exams?” – https://www.tampabay.com/blogs/gradebook/2019/05/31/how-many-florida-seniors-are-stalled-by-graduation-exams/). Again, keep in mind when reading this article and viewing these figures that for the most part the statistics he’s sharing are students who have essentially met all the requirements for graduation except one or more of the barrier tests (Algebra 1 EOC or 10th grade ELA FSA).

In Citrus, I will share that our schools have become successful in helping many (but not all) of our students to find some alternative option so that they may graduate and meet all the testing requirements. To do so it takes significate amounts of extra academic preparation, additional cost, and more importantly LOST time that could have been used towards preparing the student for industry certifications or other post-secondary opportunities. Instead, the student must endure often discouragingly failure after failure just to master a test, rather than mastery of skills that could be more positively beneficial.

While to some these numbers may seem insignificant and small, they were enormous when you look at seniors and even worse juniors that are not on track to graduate because of these two tests.

I have continually advocated for a common-sense alternative assessment option using student academic portfolios of sample works and/or data to demonstrates mastery of the students’ skills in meeting the 10th grade ELA and/or the Algebra 1 standards requirements for high school graduation. Student academic portfolios are permitted in Florida Statute for third grade promotion for “good causes” and should be an option for high school students for the 10th grade English Language Arts (ELA) Florida Standards Assessment (FSA) graduation requirement and for the Algebra 1 End of Course Exam (EOC).

Failing to pass one or more of these required tests is a tragic consequence for a student’s lack of test taking skills or a myriad of other reasons why a student can pass a course, demonstrate mastery of the subject but fail a standardized test. It is a lifelong penalty.