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Elected Official Accountability

It Starts at the Top. 

Developing a culture of achievement within the Hendry County School District begins with developing a culture of accountability within the school board. 

This can be achieved through the adoption of self-accountability policies by the Board to:

  • Require the district administration publish an online annual stakeholder report each year that compares outcomes to the goals outlined in the District's strategic plan.
  • Require the district administration to publish all budgets and audits online.
  • Require the district administration to publish districtwide student outcomes illustrating the comparison between Heartland Education Consortium member districts and state averages.
  • Establish annual enhanced professional development requirements for school board members.
  • Require each school board member to chair a committee.
  • Require each school board member to evaluate the superintendent and the school board performance annually. 

 

 


Teacher Retention

What Does it Take to be an "Attractive" District in a Teacher's Market?

Certified teachers are in high demand all over Florida, as well as the rest of the nation. Not only are neighboring school districts competing for new teachers considering moving to rural Florida, neighboring districts are also courting Hendry County School District's most talented, experienced, and certified teachers and staff. 

Teachers and educational support staff are seeking an "attractive" work environment where they:

  • are valued financially and professionally;

Competition should be driving the District's organizational self-analysis, using the District's strategic plan as the guide, to effectively evaluate financial priorities in order to establish a pay scale that is superior to other rural districts and equally values e.

Not only is recruitment financially costly, it's academically costly for students. District students would be well served by an increased investment to retain excellent educators who provide continuity of educational programming and impactful instruction.

  • are appropriately supported by qualified administration;

  We all understand the importance of having experienced and qualified teachers providing instruction but it's equally as important to have experienced and qualified administrators leading and growing the capacity of each school's staff.

  Revising language in the current job descriptions that permits for exceptions regarding experience, educational, and certification requirements intended to permit an exceptional candidate to be appointed if they were close to meeting the requirements. It's currently being used as a loophole to recommend employment of school administration who do not possess the qualifications the Board intended and expects. 

  • receive appropriate and adequate resources to serve students well;

  Different classrooms require different resources to function well and the needs are as diverse as the students. Teachers and students should be able to depend on being provided, at a minimum, with the supports necessary to meet the requirements of each child's Individual Education Plan (IEP) or 504 Plan. Teachers should be empowered to advocate for their students' needs and should be have access to library of resources available to assist parents in partnering with the teacher and school for students' best academic and behavioral outcomes. 

  • and have fair, merit-based opportunities for advancement.

  Opportunities for advancement to school leadership should be based on the candidate who meets the highest standards for qualification based on educational attainment, certifications held, and years of successful experience. 


Student Achievement - Qualified Teachers in Classrooms

The Business of Student Achievement.

The Hendry County School District (HCSD) is the county's second largest employer and student achievement is our product. The most effective way to increase student achievement is to put qualified teachers in front of students for 180 days.

School administrators should be empowered to focus solely on instructional leadership during the summer and throughout the school year and trust in HR to provide a selection of qualified candidates in the event of a vacancy. The market has changed and the District's response to fulfilling our obligation to provide students with qualified teachers, support staff, and transportation professionals should be adjusting to meet the challenge. In order to hire enough qualified staff to meet students' needs, a significant investment needs to be made into expanding the capability of the District's human resource department in order to provide professional, centralized recruitment, enhanced personnel support for employees and candidates, and on boarding of qualified candidates.

The Hendry County School Board has provided for funding for all critical teaching positions. The District also employees grant-funded instructional coaches with master's degrees at each school while critical academic area vacancies remain covered by non-certified alternatives. Students would benefit from the Board passing policies that require Board approval of all grant applications, and that critical academic areas be filled by certified teachers prior to advertising openings for grant-funded positions on the campus.

 


Financial Stewardship

Every Dollar Needs to be Impactful!

The Hendry County School District is funded by tax dollars paid by hardworking residents of Hendry County and Florida. Purposeful and impactful investment of these tax dollars requires constant analysis of the measurable returns in student growth and achievement. If an expense cannot be justified based on the impact on student achievement and alignment to the strategic plan, then it doesn't need to occur again because not only is it wasting tax dollars, it's wasting students' and teachers' time. Passing a policy to require annual programmatic cost-benefit analysis and a policy that requires all contracts going forward to include the option for the District to discontinue any contract with no penalty if the product, program, or service does not meet predetermined expected outcomes after 365 days would be beneficial to students, teachers, and taxpayers. 

 


Transparency

Champion of Transparency!

 The work of the Hendry County School Board is the work of the people and should be conducted publicly and with transparency. As a member of a five person board subject to compliance with the "Sunshine Law" that permits a superintendent to hold individual and private conversation with board members but does not permit members of the same board to privately discuss matters that could reasonably come before the board for a vote, I consistently ask questions and bring forth discussion in public board meetings for the purpose of ensuring board and public awareness, as well as providing my colleagues with the opportunity to ask questions of the administration.

I'm especially proud of the transparency initiatives, however seemingly unorthodox, I accomplished in my first term to ensure citizens receive convenient access to school board meetings in the comfort of their home. After being unsuccessful in getting the Board to support my motion to livestream and record board meetings, I consulted an attorney and realized I could livestream the meetings myself...so I did until the Board saw the value in the service and eventually supported my motion's intent.


Student Achievement - Literacy for ALL

Literacy for ALL Students. 

Decades of reputable research has proven a link between below grade level third grade literacy achievement, drop-out rates, underemployment and chronic unemployment, as well as negative interactions with law enforcement including incarceration. According to the Florida Department of Education's 2021-22 FSA test results, 61% of Hendry County School District (HCSD) third grade students read below a satisfactory grade level.

The statistic is significant to each child, and family of each child, who fell into the 61% majority of underperforming students because once students enter fourth grade, they are expected to be able to learn information from reading and no longer learning how to read. There begins the third grade literacy deficit's compounding interest which grows larger with every passing year. For example, according to publicly-accessible HCSD reported data, 8% of 2022 of HCSD seniors (who did not attend a collegiate academy graduated reading on grade level. A student's level of literacy and numeracy upon graduation strongly determines the future educational and economic opportunities available to them.

Nationwide literacy rates have spiraled downward in the decades since the education industry embraced the concept of teaching young children to read by memorizing words (sight words) and guessing words they didn't know or remember based on the context of the other words or pictures (cueing) instead of teaching them that each letter makes a sound and that if one can remember the sounds each letter makes, they can decode (sound out) almost any word. The better a student is at decoding, the more fluently the student reads. The more fluently the student reads, the better their comprehension. Being able to decode words provides the necessary foundation to learn to encode (spell) words which is the foundation of writing. 

I have long championed HCSD administration to acknowledge and respond to District literacy rates and will continue to encourage the investment of federal tax dollars intended to close achievement gaps for Hendry County students be spent to develop and implement a framework for all PreK - third grade teachers, reading teachers, literacy coaches, and paraprofessionals working in small groups, with English language learner students, and students with IEPs/504s to receive ongoing and compensated training in direct, systematic, multi-sensory instructional reading instruction based on the Science of Reading, in addition to on-site implementation support.  

Students want to be successful. Teachers want to empower student success. Let's give them the right training, resources, and support to make it happen! Our students are worth the effort. 


Paid for by Stephanie Busin for Hendry County School Board, District 4
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