When the first bell rings at the start of school on August 12, our Wakulla County classrooms will be staffed with educators at a fill rate of 100 percent throughout the district.
School Board Chair, Becky Cook, noted, “The feedback I have received from teachers and parents has been positive regarding the Thursday school start date. Students have the opportunity to get acclimated and parents have time to purchase back-to-school supplies before the first full week of school.”
Faced with growing costs, budget cuts and reduction in positions Wakulla School District had fewer vacancies than normal. Fourteen new teachers and four new therapists have been hired to date for the 2010-2011 school year as a result of retirements, relocations, and resignations. Seventy-one percent of new instructional hires were from those who were already serving as a paraprofessional, as a substitute teacher, in a time-limited position or as an intern. Of the new teachers hired, 36% are new secondary school teachers and 86% are Wakulla residents. Ten additional classified positions including, school bus drivers, custodians, food service workers, paraprofessionals and athletic coaches were filled as well.
Karen Wells, Human Resources Executive Director notes, “Three years ago we were recruiting because of a statewide teacher shortage. This year, mainly because of the state budget cuts, the economy and the positive reputation of our school district, we have had a surplus of teachers with up to 70 qualified applicants for many of the positions.”
The 100% fill rate and rich pool of applicants is evidence of two things: that educators see Wakulla County School District as a desirable place to work; and the district’s recruiting and hiring plan is effective. Superintendent David Miller adds, “It’s a win-win situation, allowing Wakullas’ students to learn from the best and the brightest educators. Our students deserve no less than the best.”
Maintaining the integrity of the classroom is job #1 for the Wakulla County School District.
Once hired, every new Wakulla teacher participated in two days of CSI: Wakulla! Survival Training. Yes! Even school teachers attend Curriculum, Students, and Instruction Summer Camp. Participants were acclimated and acculturated to the way to do business in a high performing school district. The seminars were facilitated by Wakulla national board certified teachers; Kim Bartnick, Jennifer Thaxton with Rhonda Traweek and Mollie Robinson leading the technology training. Topics such as classroom management, ethics, the first day of school, lesson planning, technology and instructional strategies were included in the training.
When asked what they are most excited about as the opening day of school approaches, most new educators responded with “meeting my students” and “teaching in Wakulla County.” Wells adds, “The positive energy from the new hires was evident even in orientation. Over and over again, we heard, “I am glad I’m in Wakulla County. Wakulla is a progressive “A” School District and still retains its rural charm. I knew when I was in college I wanted to teach in Wakulla County. I am so happy I can’t stop smiling.””
All Wakulla teachers return to school on Thursday, August 5 for a professional development day. School begins for all students Thursday, August 12.
A quick glimpse at the new teachers by school site follows:
- Lindsey M. Prato (Occupational Therapist) – Has a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Occupational Therapy. Originally from Leesburg, FL, she enjoys horseback riding. She is excited about joining a new school district family.
Crawfordville Elementary School
- Patricia Strickland (5th grade Teacher) – Previously served as a paraprofessional at CES for the past 5 years while working on her degree. Her hometowns are Port St. Joe and Okeechobee, FL. She is a graduate of Flagler College, married and has two lovely children.
- Scarlett Tucker (1st grade Teacher) Previously served as a time-limited teacher and paraprofessional at CES she has teaching experience from Leon County. An FSU graduate, she is married with two children.
Riversink Elementary School
- Marc Richter (Speech Therapist) – Taught at COAST Charter School last year. Has his Master’s degree in speech/language pathology and audiology from FSU. His hometown is Tallahassee, FL.
- Virginia Brown (Kindergarten Teacher) – Previously served as a time-limited teacher at Riversink, she is married to Josh Brown with two children.
Shadeville Elementary School
- Samantha Callaghan (2nd grade Teacher) – Served as a paraprofessional at CES last year. Her hometown is Winter Park, FL. She is a graduate of Flagler College, is married to Liam Callaghan and has two daughters. Heard about the Wakulla County School District at a Flagler College presentation.
- Tammy Metcalf (2nd grade Teacher) – Served as a paraprofessional and in a time-limited position. Has lived in Crawfordville for 26 years. Married to John Metcalf and has two children JD and Lukus. A product of the Wakulla School System she is excited to meet her students.
- Lauralee Moore (4th grade Teacher) – A graduate of Flagler College and a product of the Wakulla County School System, she is excited about beginning her career in education. She is excited about meeting her colleagues and students.
- Desiree Farmer (Pre-K Teacher) – She is close to completing her master’s degree in early childhood. Her mother was a school teacher and she is looking forward to carrying on the family tradition.
- Brittany Geiger (Speech-Language Therapist) – Originally from Valdosta, GA, and an FSU graduate, she brings experience as a SLI to Pre-K. Married to Stuart Geiger and has a five year old son, Mason. She is excited to meet the kids and her new team.
- Phyllis Link (Pre-K Teacher) – Originally from Flagler Beach, FL and a Florida Southern College graduate, she is excited to continue working with pre-K students.
- Karla Nelson (Sopchoppy Pre-K Teacher) – Previously served as a paraprofessional at Pre-K. A resident of Crawfordville she comes from a family of educators. She is married to Scott Nelson and has two children.
- Patricia Phillips (Occupational Therapist) – A graduate of FAMU she is excited about working with pre-K students. In her spare time she enjoys reading, gardening, hiking and playing board games.
Riversprings Middle School
- Kelly Dykes (ESE Teacher) – An experienced RMS paraprofessional resides in Wakulla County. She is an FSU graduate and is married to Jeff Dykes and has two children; Shelby and Logan. She enjoys outdoor sports and is looking forward to meeting her new students.
- Jessica Wells (6th grade) – Lives in Wakulla County and served last year as a Riversprings ESE paraprofessional and girls athletic coach. Originally from Ft. Walton Beach, FL she is an FSU graduate and FSU softball player, married to Chase Wells.
Wakulla High School
- Christian Amos (ESE Teacher) – Originally from Clemmons, NC he is married with a 19-month old daughter. Enjoys strongman competitions and weightlifting. Relocating from the Metro Atlanta Georgia.
Wakulla Middle School
- Alena Crawford (6th grade) – An experienced teacher from Spring Hill, FL. Mrs. Crawford returns to WMS where she once attended as a student. She is a graduate and softball player of Saint Leo University.
- Logan Crouch (6th grade) – Returns to WMS as a sixth grade teacher. Is a graduate of WHS and is glad to be back in Wakulla County.