Governor’s Office responds to concerns about local school district

Lazaro Aleman
ECB Publishing, Inc.

The group of local citizens, parents, teachers, students and others who wrote the Governor and other state officials to express concern about the Jefferson County School District got a response from the Governor’s Office, in an indirect one. In a letter dated May 13, Heather Robinson, operations manager for the Office of Chief Inspector General for the Office of Governor, wrote a brief response to Gladys Roann-Watson, the spokesperson for the Stakeholders of the Jefferson County School District, as the group calls itself. Robinson acknowledged receipt of the May 6 complaint and advised that her office did not have jurisdiction over local governments entities or employees. “However, after having had the opportunity to review your concerns, by copy of this letter, we are referring your complaint to the Inspector General for the Florida Department of Education (FDOE) for review of any issues that may fall within their jurisdiction and action deemed appropriate,” Robinson wrote. Roann said on Friday, May 29, that so far, the FDOE Inspector General had not responded. Nor had any of the other state officials addressed in the May 6 letter, which carried with it 261 signatures. Officials copied in the May 6 complaint included Education Commissioner Pam Stewart and Deputy Commissioner Juan Copa, FDOE Chancellor Hershel Lyons, State Senator Bill Montford, and State Representative Halsey Beshears Since the complaint was mailed, the group has collected an additional 300 signatures. And Roann says that people continue to approach her around town or call her on the phone and ask to sign the petition. She said that her group planned to attend the School Board meeting on Monday evening, June 8, to learn how the district was going to respond to the expressed concerns. If the district’s response were unsatisfactory, the group would go to next level, she said without elaborating. The group’s concerns center on the cuts in staff and programs — cuts that the district says are necessary because of dropping enrollment and the associated funding losses. “We feel that the education system in our county is broken,” the group wrote in its letter to the Governor and the other state officials.  The group’s enumerated concerns are many and center on the areas of school improvement and differential accountability and staffing and budget. Among the cited concerns: * The failure of certain advisory and professional learning communities to be formed or established, as required.  * The elimination of some 20-odd instructional and non-instructional positions, including the Spanish teacher at the high school, although foreign language is a state requirement for graduation. * The advertisement for an assistant superintendent, when the district is terminating staff, has a total enrollment of about 850 students, and is in dire financial straits. The School Board’s scheduled meeting is 6 p.m. Monday, June 8, in the district administration building on West Washington Street.