Affordable housing is an issue with the school district as well

Theresa Axford, superintendent for the Monroe County School District, joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM to talk about school issues.

Since ratifying the teacher’s contract a few weeks ago, Monroe County School District is in pretty good shape for the coming year, but there are still some vacancies.

The starting salary is $61,800.

Axford said, “Of course, we’re using that as a bargaining chip, trying to attract teachers to fill positions here. But as you know, the big problem is housing. So we have people who are interested in positions and they start looking and they just can’t accept the positions because they can’t find anything. We pull all our resources together to try to help them, though. It’s one of those things that we have to face every year here.”

The Trumbo Point Project is looking to help.

Axford said, “This coming Tuesday it’ll be great when SPGL can take possession of the property because they’re facing all kinds of things going forward. Building costs just keep rising, and it’s kind of hard to get a handle on it. The sheriff’s project which is right behind where we are there on Trumbo is moving forwards great guns, as they say. There’s shovels in the ground, there’s front loaders, back loaders, all kinds of trucks. So you know that 24 unit development is really on its way. That’s what we want to see happening at Trumbo.”

The project will be divided into phases.

Axford explained, “It’s a six acre property, actually about 5.9. So we can divide the project into phases. So we’ve got a phase one, a phase two, and then we’ve got this little parcel of .409 acres that we’ve been abrogating the cost of with the US Department of Education. But the big thing there is we’ve got to get that administration building off of the Trumbo property. The governor was kind enough to give us $2 million this year towards that move, but it’s going to cost $20 million. So we’re going back to the Senator and our State Representative to see what more we can do in terms of that, because this is a fully moving project with many, many moving parts. We want to move over to our building over on United Street. That Admin Building is just ready to fall down. So we need all the help we can get with that.”

There is a project in the Upper Keys in conjunction with the county.

Axford said, “That’s also exciting. It’s an opportunity for us to partner with the county on a 28 unit project at the 95 mile marker. We would split that down the middle, 14 each, which would be just a great opportunity, and chances are that this project will be done quicker than Trumbo for sure. Because once the ground lease is done on Trumbo, then all the permitting and everything has to begin. What the tenant leasing would look like for Trumbo is instructional personnel, then support personnel, then City of Key West employees, then Monroe County employees, with the sheriff’s department being a part of that and then state of Florida employees and other government employees. So it’s restricted to those groups. I believe the Upper Keys project will have a similar kind of distinction. It would be for county employees and of course, for us, it would continue to be instructional personnel and support personnel. What we’re trying to do in each case, my goal is, get all the funding together. So it would be about $5.5 million for the school board. Unless we can trade ROGO units. It’s complicated, but it’s worthwhile work.”

Some good news from the district, Monica Horsley, literacy coach at Plantation Key School, has been selected for Leadership Florida, class of 2023-24.

Axford said, “We are so proud of Monica. She was our district-wide teacher of the year, a couple of years ago. So these folks have high potential, and they’re very productive. She has kept in touch with the entire Florida network through the Florida Lead Teacher Network. Through that group, she has distinguished herself, so much that she has been nominated and is going to participate in Leadership Florida. I’m very proud of her. The mission of this group is to recharge leadership, and to expand their network and deal with education issues throughout the state. It’s not just teachers and administrators that are a part of this. They’re bankers, lawyers, all kinds of business folks throughout Florida, who look at education and try to come up with solutions and kind of profit from that synergy that exists when high profile people get together to problem solve. It’s an eight month program. I’m very anxious to hear what her thoughts are as she moves through the program, and just terrifically honored that Monroe County is participating.”

Mike Stapleford of KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM noted, “I also don’t want it to go unnoticed that you received University of Florida Distinguished Educator in 2006. You were also named Middle School Principal of the Year several times and Principal of the Year throughout your 33 years of district service. So we want to thank you for that. You know a little bit about leadership as well.”

“Well, thank you,” Axford said.

Students will return to school on August 10.

Axford said, “The teachers report on August 3, and we have our new teacher orientation on August 1. So there’s a lot of excitement underway getting ready for school.”