The Gadsden County Classroom Teachers Association (GCCTA ) held a press conference last week to encourage School Superintendent Roger Milton to bring back his plan to reconfigure the district in the 2017-2018 school year.
Milton had stated in the last School Reconfiguration meeting at Carter Parramore Academy that there would be no changes in the 2017-2018 school year.
Ronte Harris, president of the GCCTA, stated at the press conference, “Today we stand at the crossroads of change in public education in Gadsden County. In November, Superintendent Milton took a bold step forward with his plan for reconfiguration. He recently pulled his plan from the table because of the few who wish for things to remain as they are.”
“We are here to say that educators, students, parents, the community and all the stakeholders welcome change and we choose progress over failure,” Harris said. “We welcome a reconfiguration plan that maximizes the use of our current resources and begins to address the issues that have plagued this district for over a decade.”
Harris listed five points that required changes in the district:
• The lack of instructional materials, resources, equipment and all of the things necessary to meet the needs of students.
• The inability to recruit and retain highly-qualified teachers because of stagnant wages and salaries that have been ranked bottom.
• The constant waste of resources trying to maintain dilapidated and crumbling buildings that are under-enrolled and in need of major renovation.
• Music programs, Art Programs and Athletic programs that are under-funded or not funded at all.
• The inability to offer rigorous or higher level academic courses to ALL students.
All of these points, he said, affects the educational quality of the district.
“Our elected leaders have an obligation to ensure quality and not just maintain. When we choose to not do what we know is right in order to improve education quality, we solidify and validate the legislature’s push to expand vouchers, charters and school choice. We here today choose progress over failure,” He said.
Harris adamantly stated that the district was presented with the opportunity to begin progress toward improving the quality of its schools and an opportunity to prove that public education in Gadsden
County is not destined for failure. He said some would have us to believe that it’s too much, too fast.
“I believe that it’s a ‘right now’ plan for ‘right now’ issues that we can continue to build on in the years to come. I believe that we have the capacity to provide every child that enters our schools with the highest quality of education if we do today, what we should have done 10 years ago. Doing nothing is not an option!” he said
Harris said GCCTA supported the superintendent and a plan for progress.
“I’m confident that a majority on our school board supports a plan that moves us forward,” he said about bringing the issue back to the next school board meeting.
Several other members spoke in support of the GCCTA’s request to bring Milton’s reconfiguration plan back for the 2017-2018 school year.
Reverend Eddie Allen, representing United Gadsden, spoke about the need for change:
“We recognize the need for change in our classroom; teachers are underpaid and we recognize the value of teachers to this community,” he said. “Milton’s plan will help bring about those changes. We believe we can be better than the best.”
Coach Stanley Nealy, who now coaches at East Gadsden, said that in talking to kids about the change, they were excited about creating one high school for the county.
He stated that once the issue is brought to a vote, he believed it would pass.
East Gadsden student Ni'Jah Johnson spoke in favor of Milton’s plan: “As a young developing leader of the student government association, I support your efforts to move us forward as a county. We aren't West Gadsden or East Gadsden. We are simply Gadsden.”
Teacher and parent Kerema Dudley, who was recognized as a Florida High Impact Teacher, said she wanted to urge the superintendent to do something.
She said there were other districts reaching out to teachers like her for their district.
“We cannot do what we did last year. We can not do what we did the year before. We have to move forward and I urge the superintendent to bring this back to a vote,” Dudley stated.
2016-2017 Teacher of the Year Erica Farmer, who has been involved in legislative hearings about education stated, “We need this change; we have to remain relevant and competitive. There are teachers and students being recruited from this district.”
To the superintendent she asked that the plan be brought to a vote.
Tyrone Smith, the only school board member at the press conference, said the district needed to move forward with this plan.
The reconfiguration plan was not included on the March 28th meeting agenda. General items such as the plan must be publicly noticed at least seven days prior to a meeting.