School district celebrates accomplishments, focuses on new year

By Nick Blank nick@claytodayonline.com
Posted 8/10/22

FLEMING ISLAND – The docket at last week’s Clay County School District featured a series of recognitions as well as the excitement and challenges facing the new school year.

The district has …

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School district celebrates accomplishments, focuses on new year

Posted

FLEMING ISLAND – The docket at last week’s Clay County School District featured a series of recognitions as well as the excitement and challenges facing the new school year.

The district has had a couple of highlights since the last meeting: having the state Teacher of the Year and high scores again when state testing data and grades were released.

Superintendent David Broskie said the district earning one of 14 'A' districts in the state is a serious accomplishment. The last time grades were reported after a year-long delay.

“It shows our resiliency even during tough times, providing good quality world-class education opportunities for our students,” Broskie said.

Broskie put the spotlight on a few schools. Clay Hill Elementary achieved 17- and 22-point gains in test scores for English language arts and mathematics, respectively. Doctors Inlet Elementary secured a 26-point jump in math test scores and Lakeside Elementary had high proficiency and learning gains in the same subject. Jennings Elementary also saw ELA scores rise rapidly.

Paterson Elementary School was the highest-ranked elementary school in the district, Broskie said. Broskie also mentioned Plantation Oaks Elementary receiving an A grade for the first time since 2015. Broskie added Plantation Oaks Principal Kim Marks was an assistant principal at the school in 2015.

“It was a fantastic job,” Broskie said.

However, Broskie pointed to staffing issues, particularly for transportation. He said there are still 1,900 bus driver vacancies statewide, and 10 of those vacancies are in Clay. Some routes will double back and he cautioned the first week of school usually has some transportation issues when hundreds of district vehicles hit the road. He asked for patience, grace and compassion.

"This is not an education-related issue. This is not a Clay County-related issue," he said. "Everyone is experiencing labor shortages when it comes to drivers."

Board members also shared their thoughts on another first day of school a few days before Wednesday when things kicked off. They welcomed back teachers, support staff and students. Board Member Tina Bullock said the schools she visited were abuzz with activity, whether it was room decoration or workshops.

“It was very inspirational,” Bullock said.

Board Member Janice Kerekes said Clay's high rankings and being an 'A' district are well deserved, but employees should garner a lot of the credit.

“We’re a family here in Clay County and I’m looking forward to great things to come,” Kerekes said. “Thank you for all you do and welcome back to those children.”

In other business, district officials heard from state Teacher of the Year Melissa Matz. It’s been a long journey for the Lakeside Junior High School seventh-grade math teacher since she earned the county’s top honor at the Thrasher-Horne Center.

Before Matz’s comments, Board Chairwoman Mary Bolla joked about the board receiving a pre-algebra lesson. Matz recalled her Iowa roots and interviewing with the district at an Orlando hiring fair 18 years ago. She previously worked at Thunderbolt and Argyle elementaries in addition to Lakeside Junior High.

Matz said she was thankful for her students over the years.

“They inspired me to be the teacher I am today. And if you know me, you know all of the decisions I make are to better the lives of my students,” Matz said.

Matz said her new year-long role, which involves speeches and traveling around the state, was a chance to “elevate and celebrate” the teaching profession.

“I look forward to sharing my story as a Clay County teacher and promoting the contributions of all Florida teachers,” Matz said. “Teaching is more than just a career or profession. It is a hope and belief of a better tomorrow.”

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