School’s In Session

Every August, students head back to class to meet new teachers, study new subjects and embark on new adventures. This year, students at nine schools will meet new principals thanks to several long-time leaders retiring this summer. Rest assured these nine leaders know our schools well because every single one graduated from a Marion County public high school!

All for One and One UNIFORM for All

Two more magnet schools join the ranks requiring student uniforms this year. School advisory councils adopted the idea after speaking with parents at each school. Options include plenty of color and style choices, though. Magnet schools and programs typically require uniforms readily available at local stores. School logos are optional.

Oakcrest Elementary is an International Baccalaureate (IB) school developing lifelong learners, including additional language instruction in Spanish, inquiry-based learning, character education and international perspectives. Base uniform colors are solid and include blue, black, yellow, gold or white; bottom colors include navy, black, khaki/tan or jeans without embellishments or that are torn or frayed.

Reddick-Collier Elementary offers students entry into the Cambridge Program, emphasizing knowledge and skills to solve real-world problems. Shirts must have a collar and be solid maroon, black, white, yellow or gray; bottoms must be jeans, pants, shorts, skirts or skorts.

Code Of Conduct

Two big changes are in store for students and parents this year when it comes to discipline.

  1. Although it briefly returned last year, corporal punishment (paddling) is once again omitted from this year’s Code of Student Conduct. School board members removed the discipline option altogether for this school year, so parents need not be concerned with this traditional form of punishment.

  2. The second major change involves cyber bullying. The action is more specifically defined this year and outlines discipline for students participating in this technological form of bullying. This includes use of any electronic means to harass or bully a student to the point where it interferes with or limits the victim’s ability to participate in or benefit from the services, activities or opportunities offered by a school or if it substantially disrupts the education process or orderly operation of a school.

Farewell To The FCAT

Students no longer take the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) for reading, mathematics and writing. Students in grades five and eight will still take the FCAT Science exam, a paper-based test.

Starting this school year, students take the new Florida Standards Assessments (FSA), English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics, measuring student mastery of the Florida Standards. Most of the FSA tests are now computer-based, and tests that are currently paper-based will eventually become computer-based.

The new end-of-course (EOC) Florida Standards Assessments include Algebra 1, Algebra 2 and Geometry. EOC Next Generation Sunshine State Standards (NGSSS) assessments will continue for Biology 1, Civics and U.S. History. All EOC assessments are computer-based tests.

Testing takes place throughout March, April and May and focuses on critical-thinking skills instead of simple traditional multiple choice answers.

What Will Voters Say?

In November, Marion County voters will decide yes or no on funding an additional one mill to pay for art, music, media/library and technology needs throughout the district. The official ballot language reads:

“Shall the Marion County School District’s ad valorem millage be increased by a total of one mill, beginning July 1, 2015 and ending June 30, 2019, for the necessary operating expenses including reading, physical education, art, music, library/media and vocational programs; meeting class size requirements; and retaining State Certified teachers and paraprofessionals with oversight of these expenditures by an independent citizens financial oversight committee? YES or NO

Since 2007, more than $41 million has been cut from the district’s operating budget. This part of the budget pays for salaries, utilities, transportation, materials and supplies, plus other day-to-day operating costs. Maintenance and capital building projects are not part of this budget. As with any private business, salaries account for the largest part—nearly 80 percent—of the operating budget.

State law requires the Marion County School Board to approve a balanced budget each year. Board members are working through the budget this month, determining priorities and deciding which funds will go where. Through a series of public work sessions, the Board will finalize a budget, initially presented by Superintendent George Tomyn, and vote on it early next month.

If voters approve the additional one mill proposal on November’s ballot, the money will help restore art, music, library/media services and physical education programs and provide funds to pay for additional teachers to meet class size requirements. As well, voter approval means the district will improve its efforts to retain state-certified teachers and paraprofessionals. Finally, a committee comprised of local business owners and residents will regularly review and ensure the additional mill is spent exactly as promised in ballot language.

The proposed increase would last four years and average an additional $125 annually for the owner of a $150,000 house in Marion County with state homestead exemption. This equates to 34 cents per day or about $2.40 each week.

Belleview-Santos Elementary: Fredna Wilkerson brings her 34 years of district experience to this Southeast Marion County school. With the last four years as principal, Wilkerson’s educational background includes degrees from the University of South Florida and the University of Central Florida. Wilkerson graduated from North Marion High.

College Park Elementary: Cassandra Boston, a North Marion High graduate, leads here with 33 years of district experience. Having taught at elementary and secondary grade levels, Boston’s educational degrees come from Florida State University and National-Louis University.

Dunnellon Elementary: Gay Street takes her first principal appointment at this school. A former school secretary, Street worked her way up the ladder and holds degrees from the College of Central Florida, Florida Southern and Saint Leo University. Street graduated from North Marion High School.

Evergreen Elementary: Staying with a “green” theme, Erin Quainton, a Forest High graduate, moves here from Greenway Elementary with 31 years as a district employee. Her bachelor’s and master’s degrees come from Florida State University and the University of South Carolina, respectively.

Greenway Elementary: First-time Principal LuAnn Clark takes over, but she’s no newcomer to the district. She graduated from Vanguard and joined MCPS 15 years ago. Her college degrees come from Saint Leo University.

Hammett Bowen Jr. Elementary: Teresa Forsyth moves here with 20 years of district experience under her belt, the last five years at Bellview-Santos Elementary. Her college experience includes degrees from Saint Leo University and Nova Southeastern University. She also graduated from North Marion High School.

Harbour View Elementary: With a rich heritage in public education, Heather Guest is a first-time principal at this Southeast Marion County school. She joined the district 13 years ago and holds educational degrees from the University of South Florida. Guest graduated from Forest High.

Liberty Middle: Jennifer Sibbald stays in secondary education and moves to the head of the line as the new principal here. With 18 years of district experience, Sibbald’s educational degrees come from the University of Florida and Nova Southeastern University. She is a Dunnellon High graduate.

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