School board honors teacher, staff of year

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By Mike Capshaw, Staff Writer

The Levy County School Board announced the Teachers and Educational Staff Professionals of the Year for all 14 county schools at its Feb. 7 meeting where a large crowd of county educators packed the school board conference room.
Early Buddy Wyckoff of Williston High School was named Teacher of the Year. Williston Elementary School's Demeris "Dee" Arrington was selected as ESP of the year.
Chiefland teachers honored were Lisa Baxter from Chiefland Elementary School, Debra Weeks from Chiefland Middle and Adam Boyd from Chiefland High. ESPs were Janie Jacobs (CES), Susie Nichols (CMS) and Linda Jones (CHS).  
After the announcement, the board discussed plans to help the district abide by the Florida Class Size Reduction Amendment. The district faces $600,000 in fines for violating the standards but can reduce the fines by a minimum of 75 percent by creating and implementing a plan to reduce class sizes. Solutions include adding multiple teachers and teacher’s aides to a single class and promoting online classes. The resolution passed 5-0 without debate.
The board also looked at the first budget for the proposed new Williston middle/high school. The board discussed ways to meet all requirements for space and use. The school is still in the beginning stages of planning, but this is one step closer toward completion, said Jeff Edison. The motions for the plan were approved 5-0 by the board without debate.
Edison also said the county is right on track with its budget. With over half the school year completed, 52 percent of the budget has been spent. Edison did note the county will go into reserves, as was planned in the budget.
In other business, superintendent Bob Hastings expressed concern about regulations from the state of Florida. In addition to problems with class size violations and restrictions for the county’s new proposed school, Hastings was troubled about “over testing” of students. Hastings said that up to 71 of the final 90 days for high school students could be spent if additional proposed state-mandated testing sessions are implemented. “Our high schools will become testing and remediation centers,” Hastings said.
Hastings said the higher standards for the new F-CAT 2.0 also could also hurt county students. According to the superintendent, 60 percent of Levy students will fail the new test, a prerequisite for graduation. “I don’t mind raising the bar but I think that’s through tougher classes. It’s not through making tests so out sight you can’t reach it,” Hastings said.