LIVE OAK — The Suwannee County Sheriff’s Office as well as a school board member and Walt’s Live Oak Ford were recognized for their contributions to the Suwannee County School District last week.

At the school board’s July 23 meeting, Superintendent Ted Roush made presentations to board member Jerry Taylor for his service as president of the Florida School Board Association, Sheriff Sam St. John in recognition of the Suwannee County Sheriff’s Office being the district’s Business Partner of the Year and Walt’s Live Oak Ford for its ongoing support of the schools with the Ford Drive 4 UR School fundraisers.

Taylor, who has served on the school board since 1996, ended his term as FSBA president at the end of June. Taylor became the second president of the state-wide group in its history from a rural county.

“There’s just not very many opportunities we have to have folks from small, rural districts to serve in positions that are so visible at the state level,” Roush said. “He has served us well, he served the state well, served the FSBA well and represented small, rural districts extremely well.”

Taylor said he never expected to be in such a position.

“I love kids,” he said. “I love what we do in public education.

“The recognition for Suwannee County is the important thing to expose what we do in our district. We’re competitive with anybody in the state. I’d put us up against anybody. I’m very, very proud of this district. I’m very proud to represent this district.”

St. John and the SCSO were recognized for their willingness to assist the school district in implementing elements required under the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Safety Act, including the district’s guardian program.

Board Chairman Ed daSilva later shared with the rest of the board and those in attendance, a preliminary report from the statewide grand jury hammering school districts across the state for noncompliance with those safety measures passed in 2018.

“Protecting and securing our schools and every life within them is everyone's responsibility and it is of utmost importance,” the report states, adding that the grand jury expected school district and law enforcement officials would “do whatever it takes to bring these districts into full compliance.”

The grand jury noted in the report that there had already been sufficient time for districts to be in compliance.

That hasn’t been problem here, thanks in large part to the willingness and cooperation of the SCSO and district employees led by Malcolm Hines, Roush said.

“The schools and protecting our children, that’s near and dear to my heart,” St. John said. “Me, personally, if I have the ability — and I do — to help with the schools and I didn’t do it and something happened to the kids at the schools, I couldn’t live with myself.”

Added daSilva: “To be the leaders in school safety in the state of Florida, and I don’t say that lightly because I think we are. I think we’re the leaders in school safety for these students because of the sheriff and his cooperation and his department and the police department here in town.

“To remember that it’s kids safety that is of the utmost importance. I appreciate all the efforts that the entire school district puts forth to do this. I’m proud of what we do. I hope they come and ask us for our advice because we sure have some advice to give some folks.”

Bryan Blair with Walt’s Live Oak Ford presented Terry Huddleston, Branford High principal, with an $8,000 check for the recent test drive fundraiser.

“It’s our honor to help Branford High School and Principal Huddleston,” Blair said. “To sound like Jerry, we love the kids.”

Roush said the district appreciated the dealership’s ongoing support of the schools.

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