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Mayor Don Burnette and City Councilman Scott Stiltner are concerned that school grades have gone down on the state's report card, especially for the elementary schools in Port Orange.
A joint workshop with the Port Orange City Council and the Volusia County School Board took place at the Lakeside Community Center at City Hall Complex on Feb. 19. Both groups discussed traffic safety, school safety, school rankings, overcrowding, textbook policy/plans, and expansion plans.
The criteria used to assess schools have changed. School populations have increased. Materials used to teach students have changed. All those factors contributed to different assessment of school performance.
“We’ve talked about tutoring, but it is data-driven tutoring,” said Superintendent James Russell. “We’ve also ramped up our coaching, where it’s side by side with the teachers to improve learning. To our professional learning communities, we’ve sent our subject area specialist to help with their planning.”
Russell stated that the lowest grades from the schools come from the lower third of their population. The schools have spent a great deal of time helping to move the lower third of the population forward.
The schools shared demographics about changing populations as well as changes to the criteria about how schools are assessed for excellence that account for the change in the report card.
Traffic around Port Orange schools
Traffic was a concern for both systems. The schools have formed a committee that is looking into staggering start times. The schools will send out a survey to the residents regarding different start times. That survey will go to the superintendent to help make a decision. Burnette emphasized the importance of input into the committee so the city can do their part in monitoring traffic.
Stiltner wants to include law enforcement in the decision process because it has a big impact on the Police Department and how they deploy their officers to handle traffic for the schools.
Russell said that buses in the county are not at capacity and can transport the majority of students to and from school, which would eliminate a great deal of traffic issues.
The city reported that several sidewalk projects are being worked on which would increase the safety of children walking to and from school.
School safety measures
The schools presented several systems in place for school safety:
- The School Marshall Program has 6 guardians at the elementary schools, and 4 school resource officers at the middle and high schools
- Single point access on campuses with security fencing, gates, and door locking bars
- A visitor management system
- Panic button system for all staff that notifies staff/law enforcement officers/others
- Entry control systems that have cipher locks (combinations of electronic, push button, and card readers
- Camera systems capable for sharing with law enforcement agencies.
- Threat assessment teams with mental health evaluations of students when threats are reported.
- Law enforcement tour of campuses every three years.
Schools are over capacity
Both sides acknowledged that Port Orange schools are over capacity. The schools are looking into ways to redirect programs and create new programs to entice more students to stay within their home zones. Schools reported it was to Port Orange’s credit that they were over capacity. Spruce Creek High School was a prime example. It has a big draw in the county because of the IB program.
Council members thanked the School Board for coming to a joint workshop and suggested they meet biannually.