On Tuesday, April 12, the Hernando County School Board held its bi-monthly meeting. The official meeting started at 6 pm, but prior to that there was a presentation by Chocachatti Elementary School on its MicroSociety Program (see article on A 4).
The first order of business was the presentation of certificates to four new school safety guardians. These are civilians who will augment the duties of the Sheriff’s Department School Resource Officers. They received 144 hours of training, many of that in firearms, but they will not be authorized to arrest anyone. Director of Safe Schools Jill Renihan, who will supervise these new school employees, presented Lee Burgess, Brett Scroggins, Angel Pagan and Gilbert Mendoza with their certificates.
Next on the agenda was a presentation by Tammy Brinker, CEO of the Hernando County Education Foundation. She recognized and thanked several companies, organizations and individuals who recently contributed either money or items to various schools or to the school district, in general.
Hernando Computer Club (HCC) donated five refurbished desktop computers valued at $750 to Spring Hill Elementary School. Mr. Hollis Taylor of the club remarked that over the past year the HCC has placed sixty-four computers in the schools.
The refurbishing of each computer represents four to six hours of work to restore it to a functional condition. Gray Alexander, a member of the organization, has done most of the work on these computers.
Next, Ms. Brinker recognized Brian Brijbag of Brijbag Law Firm for the company’s donation of $8,000 which was matched with an additional $8,000 from the Education Foundation for the Rachel’s Room project.
These funds paid for two multi-sensory learning rooms−one at Deltona Elementary and one at West Hernando Middle School−and a future one at Pine Grove Elementary.
Ms. Brinker stated, “These rooms are equipped to create a controlled sensory environment that allows experiences to be tailored to the students’ needs.”
Mr. Troy LaBarbara, Exceptional Student Education (ESE) Director thanked Mr. Brijbag and his wife, Stephanie. Mrs. Brijbag is a behavior analyst with Hernando County Schools and helped set up the rooms. The Brijbags are parents of a special needs child so this project is very meaningful to them.
Central High School Junior Naval ROTC received an in-kind donation of $1,900 from the SCATT USA Corporation. U.S. Marine Corps retired Master Gunnery Sergeant Mike Arnett, an air rifle coach with the program, explained that the company manufactures state-of-the-art optical laser systems. These will increase the accuracy of the cadets’ shooting team so they can be more competitive in national competitions.
Eastside, Moton, Brooksville, and Pine Grove Elementary Schools each received $2,500 from the Kiwanis Club of Brooksville. The funds will be used to increase literacy among the students, provide incentives to children to perform better, and for positive behavior support. Ms. Debbie Daniel, representing the organization, explained that the focus of Kiwanis is children. The club plans to do more in this area through its Kiwanis Club Foundation.
Some of the other funds went toward such items as art supplies for Explorer K-8; kayaks for the Springs Coast Environmental Center; and money for teachers, administrators, and students to travel out of town for conferences or training. Chocachatti Elementary School, alone, received $20,000 from the Schwab Charitable Fund. The total of all the monies received by the Hernando Education Foundation was $79,240.
Another important piece of business was the approval of bringing up to the Board of County Commissioners the continuation of the Half-Cent Sales Surtax to help fund the schools. If the commissioners approve this, the issue will be placed on the ballot this November for the voters to have the final say. The board was unanimous in approving the motion. The
Many issues were brought up during the citizens’ public input portion of the meeting. These included parental rights when it comes to what is taught in the schools or what material children have access to; the lack of training among the teachers on how to deal with mental health issues in the school; the shortage of media specialists in the school district (there are only three full-time media specialists currently); and disciplinary issues at certain schools. One mother commented on the lack of communication and support from staff at her daughter’s school regarding her child’s failing grades and emotional problems. For some of these issues, Mr. Stratton recommended that the parent speak to Ms. Gina Michalicka, Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning, after the meeting.
The School Board meeting adjourned at 7:36 p.m.