SBAC votes on grant, UF research project

The School Board of Alachua County (SBAC) met on Tuesday evening for a regular meeting, the first since March 16 due to spring break.

The meeting marked a return to normal business after two straight contentious meetings in which a split board fired Superintendent Carlee Simon and then replaced her with interim Superintendent Shane Andrew.

Here is a roundup of the board’s business on Tuesday:

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ACEA union update

Carmen Ward, president of the Alachua County Education Association (ACEA), said the union was pleased with the salary negotiations passed last month. She added that the union hopes to get the next agreement in place in time for the start of the next school year.

However, she said the school district needs to address more than salaries to gain and retain teachers during the shortage facing Alachua County Public Schools (ACPS) and other districts.

Ward said a secondary issue is safety and highlighted 44 reports of violence against a staff member that have occured during the 29 weeks of school.

“That’s a lot of violence,” Ward said. “We have a good code of conduct. You have set good policy, but it needs to be enforced.”

She added that student-to-student violence is probably on par, if not higher, than that against employees.

“The most loving, kind thing we can do for students is to teach them that their behaviors have consequences and let them experience the consequences of their behaviors so that they don’t carry that on in their life after school,” Ward said.

Math textbooks

The board also discussed how to move forward with its selection of new math textbooks for next year. The Florida Department of Education (FDOE) has yet to release its list of how different publishers rank, and Jennifer Wise, chief of teaching and learning, said that information could be long in getting to the district.

However, all schools and teachers had the opportunity to fill out a rubric and list their preferred textbooks. The board requested those rubrics and school scores for evaluation.

No vote was expected on Tuesday, but Wise said the board will need to take action soon, perhaps before the FDOE release, in order to secure textbooks in time for the start of school in August.

Wise said the district had selected textbooks in the past that align with the state standards without the FDOE’s approval list.

Get There Faster grant

The board approved moving forward with its state grant, Get There Faster dual enrollment expansion grant, in its consent agenda.

The district received the grant in January and will use the $324,850 in funding to hire a career counselor and purchase two minivans to increase participation in Santa Fe College’s career dual enrollment options.

In the grant proposal, the district noted that five of the county’s seven high schools run on a six-period day, leaving little time for the dual enrollment program.

The two high schools on a 4×4 block and A/B block are located on the opposite side of the county from Santa Fe—10 miles and 24 miles.

The career counselor will help navigate students through dual enrollment issues like schedules and other barriers. The counselor will also work with high schools and Santa Fe to make the option more widespread, like getting students to think about dual enrollment earlier in high school and exploring summer courses.

Prime Online research request

Also in the consent agenda, the SBAC approved a research request that will study the impact of Prime Online, a tool that helps elementary teachers with math education.

The study will focus on 80 fourth grade teachers and 1,200 students across the state of Florida and contrast those using Prime Online versus classrooms that continue as normal.

The study is run through the University of Florida, and all schools and teachers will be anonymous in their participation.

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