The May 9th Hernando County School Board meeting began on a far different note than it ended, but that’s a different story. First, the board managed to get some more routine business and student recognitions out of the way before the fireworks began during the Citizen’s Comments portion of the meeting.
The meeting began with an invocation, in which chairman Gus Guadagnino asked God to “please try to keep this meeting civil and watch over our students during summer break.”
Seven students from Brooksville Elementary led meeting attendees in the Pledge of Allegiance. Superintendent John Stratton thanked the students, parents, and administrators of Brooksville Elementary for coming to the meeting, reminding the students to stay focused for the rest of the year.
After unanimously voting to adopt the evening’s agenda, Student Representative Gina Doherty gave the board an update on recent events and student activities. Doherty then read a statement about her experiences as the student representative to the board for the past year. Doherty said her experience over the last year had been one of the greatest privileges of her life. Pointing out that Hernando is only one of five counties in the state with student representation, allowing students to sit on the Board conveys the message that Hernando County cares about students. “Though the student’s voice is mighty, it is often masked by size and age. That is why giving me the platform to amplify it is so crucial to foster a productive learning environment,” she said. Doherty concluded by thanking the district’s teachers for their dedication to students and the school board for listening to the voices of the students. “Sometimes the best ideas come from the smallest people,” she said.
The Board then moved to the next Agenda item, that of recognitions. Recognitions by the Board included:
Weeki Wachee High Attendees of the 34th Florida Future Educators of America (FFEA) State Conference
For the conference, students adopted the theme “Wild About Teaching.” Beth Lastra, Supervisor of College and Career Programs, spoke to the board about the success of the program, which Hernando County began in 2019. The program prepares high school students with an interest in becoming educators to gain experience by pairing them one on one with elementary students twice a week. Students also assist elementary school teachers with classes, learning the fundamentals of classroom teaching. Thirteen students were presented certificates for their work in the program.
Students Finalists in the Florida State Science and Engineering Fair
The board recognized fifteen student state finalists who competed with over 600 other students at the State Science and Engineering Fair held in Lakeland last April. Eight district students won certificates for placing in the competition, and the remaining seven won monetary awards. Springstead High School Junior Harsh Mehta brought home a very special award, an $86,000 scholarship, to Florida Tech.
2023 State Leadership and Skills Conference Attendees
The board recognized twenty-eight students and several teachers from the Nature Coast Technical High School after they attended the Skills USA State Leadership and Skills Conference in April. The conference, which was held in Jacksonville, saw Hernando students compete with others from across the state in various areas, showcasing their skills. In the area of computer skills, two students placed Silver in Digital Production skills, two students placed Gold in Cyber-security skills, and two more placed Silver in Application and Interactive Game Design. In Crime Scene Investigation, two Hernando students placed Silver and one in Bronze. In Culinary Skills, one student placed Gold.
Turning to more routine district business, the Board moved to Adopt the Consent Agenda. The agenda was adopted unanimously, with four items pulled for discussion. The approved items included:
• Agenda Item 9 -Personnel recommendations, which included supplemental pay for numerous staff members who performed duties outside of their normal jobs.
• Agenda Item 11- A Memorandum of Understanding between the District and the Florida Department of Health, which outlined various services provided by the Department to the District. These services include assigning registered nurses to schools and staff health training.
• Agenda Item 15- Cancellation of Contract with Cornerstone Technologies. This contract established fees and services provided for the recycling of electronics. No reason for the cancellation was specified.
• Agenda Item 16- Approval of Purchase of Advanced Placement Exams from the College Board and authorize issuance of Purchase Orders for approximately $226,035.00. The exams are sufficient in number to accommodate 2707 students.
• Agenda Item 17- Approve the Closeout/Final Acceptance to the Contract with Lego Construction Co. for the Eastside Elementary School Cooler/Freezer Addition & Remodel, and Authorize Final Payment in the Amount of $24,532.24.
Items pulled for discussion were:
• Agenda Item 10, pulled by Shannon Rodriguez- Approval of the Comprehensive Evidence-Based Reading Plan (CERP). The plan has a goal of improving the reading skills of students and contains measures of student performance. After a short presentation designed to inform the community of the purposes of the plan, the item was passed unanimously.
• Agenda Item 12, pulled by Mark Johnson- Approve Agreement Between Access Healthcare Physicians LLC and the district. The agreement will allow allied health students to get clinical hours and training by working as a volunteer with Allied Health. After a short presentation, the item passed unanimously.
• Agenda Item 13, pulled by Shannon Rodriguez -Approval of the purchase of the Let’s Talk! Platform from K12 Insight for $58,625.00. The platform provides a 24/7 unified point of contact for any student, teacher, parent, or staff member to submit questions or concerns to the district or individual schools. The cost is an annual recurring fee. Board members Johnson and Rodriguez questioned the cost-effectiveness of the program and wanted more data on the current utilization of the platform. The motion passed 3-2, despite a request by Johnson and Rodriguez to table the item for more discussion.
• Agenda Item 14, pulled by Shannon Rodriguez- Award Bid No. 22009.00, Roof Replacement & Designated Repairs for John D. Floyd Elementary School, Buildings 12 & 13, to TeamCraft Roofing, Inc., and approve the contract and the purchase of construction goods and services for $733,900.00. After some discussion on the scope of the work to be done, the awarding of the contract passed unanimously.
Following the Consent Agenda discussions was the Citizen’s Input portion of the meeting. The full story of the explosive conversations that followed is contained on pages A6- 7 in this issue of Hernando Sun.