Suwannee Democrat

Local News

February 12, 2013

Live Oak: Grade schools reconfiguring
 - Round 3

Live Oak — Superintendent of Schools Jerry Scarborough hosted the third and final town hall meeting Thursday night at Suwannee Intermediate School to discuss the possibility of reconfiguring the three Live Oak grade schools.

The meeting mirrored the other two with a brief presentation by the director of curriculum, and those in the audience stating their thoughts on the matter. There was, however, one exception.

Director of Curriculum Dawn Lamb announced that in an effort to be transparent, they would no longer offer school choice transfer. This transfer option would have first been used as a tool to balance the zones and allow parents to choose where their child would attend on a first come, first serve basis until the three schools were balanced. Due to varying circumstances, if a parent wishes for their child to attend a school outside of their zone, if reconfiguration is approved, the parent will submit a hardship request and the school board will hear the matter at an open school board meeting.
Lamb also told the crowd that if a school staff worker is assigned to a particular building, their child would be allowed to attend the school they are assigned to. She stated the practice is followed at other school districts in the state.

Following Lamb’s presentation, Scarborough opened the floor and welcomed input. The room was filled with mixed emotions, some for reconfiguring and some against. The majority of those that spoke were teachers.

School teacher Lesley Fry said she is for reconfiguring.

“I’ve taught at every school in this district besides the high school, and I think we need the continuity between the children and the faculty,” Fry said.

Fry communicated to the crowd that smaller teams will indeed increase communication among teachers. 
“There’s 22 third grade teachers and none knew what the other one was doing because there’s too many of us,” said Fry.

She continued, “I think if you’ll put the children in the classroom and close the door and have good quality teachers, your children are going to learn. In the wake of everything that is going on, I think our focus should be on parental involvement, security for our schools and providing that family atmosphere for our children.”

George Blake, a former educator, said he has known Scarborough for about 35 years and it is difficult to oppose him.

“Jerry, I believe you received some very bad advice on this move. I think the motive is to get an A school, and we all want that, but I believe it can be done without this reconfiguration,” Blake said.

Blake said the figure the administration gave three years ago to reconfigure was $380,000, and $180,000 the second year for reoccurring expenses.

However, Scarborough said that due to a lack of technology, they were “shooting in the dark.”

“When we were trying to reconfigure in 2009, we did not have the software available that we have today,” said Scarborough. “Since we can actually drill down and see where our students are at, I can assure you that it won’t cost $380,000. I can assure you that it might cost a little over $102,000. It’s very important that you realize that we’ve had our technology people look at this plan. We’ve had our librarians look at this plan. We’ve had transportation and food service look at this plan. All of our departments have weighed in and we feel very confident it’s $100,000. Last time we were shooting in the dark with worst case scenario, but we know now. We didn’t even prepare a plan last time. We asked the board to allow us to prepare a plan the last time, and to drill down these figures, but we were denied. Because if we could have actually drilled down the figures, we would have known it wasn’t going to cost $380,000, and there’s no reoccurring costs in this proposal.”

Scarborough said all they are doing is transferring students from one school to another “and that’s not going to cost that much money.”

Although many spoke in favor of this plan, there were those who don’t see it as a step moving forward.

Sheriff Tony Cameron addressed the audience saying that reconfiguring the schools would result in inequality for the children.

“I believe that the current configuration is the most fair, equal system we could have in this county,” Cameron said. “And if we change, no matter how hard we try, there would be more inequality. And we should all have equal rights to education.”

Dorothy Daniels, a parent, said she believes “reconfiguration is not going to solve the problem.”

“I have had three kids in the school system, one who has gone through each school,” Daniels said. “One of the things that he learned is that each year, or each time he made a transition, he met and made new friends. If he had stayed at one school, he would have never known those kids. Social economic strengths. Friendships were made.”

“Instead of keep changing and trying new things, go back to something that worked,” said Daniels. “Go back to the basics and teach these kids, and they can pass these tests.”

Daniels believes that change, changing schools in particular, is a good thing.

“Change has never hurt anyone. If change is taught to kids early on, it won’t bother them when they become adults,” she said. “It’s learning to accept that everything today is not the way it’s going to be tomorrow.”
The schools being discussed for reconfiguration are Suwannee Primary School, which currently offers Pre-K through first grade; Suwannee Elementary School, grades 2-3; and Suwannee Intermediate School, grades 4-5.

If approved by a board vote in March, the schools would be transformed into three distinct grade schools that would all offer Pre-K through fifth grade which would go into effect in the 2013-14 school year. 


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