In the Monroe County School District, children are the top priority — and there is definitely reason to celebrate.
Dr. Sue Woltanski, Monroe County School Board member for District 5, joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM this morning to talk about what’s happening in the district.
The students are out of school all week for the Thanksgiving holiday and a number of teams have done quite well in the fall sports, including swimmers in state championships.
Woltanski said, “Jennifer Averette, she’s in her mid-20s from Key West. She is a Special Olympics athlete who in about two weeks is going to be inducted into the Florida Special Olympics all of Fame. She’s only the third athlete since 1970 when they started the Hall of Fame to get inducted into that. She has participated in multiple sports, but she was one of the first competitors for stand-up paddle boarding.”
During COVID, Averette got involved with leadership classes for the Special Olympics and became an officiant.
Woltanski said, “She was actually an officiant in the World Games last year. So it’s a tremendous honor she’s really accomplished. It’s really a tribute to the community that supports all athletes at all levels and in all different aspects. It’s really a super big honor for her, but for the community as well.”
Teachers and hourly employees will see a pay raise this year.
Woltanski said, “The rising cost of housing brought in more funds, so we were able to put that right where it’s needed most and that’s in the salaries of the people who provide the education for our kids and that’ll be retroactive to the first of July.”
That may also help with recruitment.
Woltanski said, “There is a tremendous need, there is a lack of certified psychologists for school age kids. Within the schools, that’s really where it’s most effective because families who are in crisis have a hard time getting kids who are in crisis to outside appointments.”
It’s something the superintendent in Monroe County is championing.
Woltanski said, “We didn’t have social workers in the school before she came. She’s working to get more counselors and more social workers in the school because it’s a basic need for the kids to be successful. It’s a problem everywhere. I’m hoping that this year coming forward, the legislative session will focus on that. The Florida School Board Association is focused on that as well and getting more funding and a better pipeline towards getting those kind of employees into the schools.”
While the data is not out yet, it looks like school performance is moving forward.
Woltanski said, “There has been remarkably little disruption, which is really what the COVID pandemic did. We’re working on truancy issues, but we’re working on getting kids into the classrooms every day. Without COVID that’s been much, much, much better than the last two years, so I’m sure we’re going to see success from those efforts.”
Students were also able to take part in Veterans Day programs.
“We want it to be back to normal,” Woltanski said. “We want it to be better than normal.”
The next school board meeting will be tomorrow at 5 p.m. at the Marathon High School Media Center. It will be an organizational meeting for new and returning members.