Monroe County students are looking at a six week break

Dr. Sue Woltanski, Vice Chair for Monroe County School Board, joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM this morning to talk about what’s happening in the district.

Today is the last day for the summer session for Monroe County Schools and the students will have a six-week break.

The new school year will being on August 10, with teachers returning on August 3.

With ratification of the new contract for teachers in Monroe County, every teacher will see a $5,000 increase.

Woltanski said, “Everyone across the board got raises, which with the cost of everything down here, especially housing, we’re struggling. It’s not just finding new teachers. It’s keeping the ones that we have because of the difficulties of the cost of living here.”

The starting salary is a little above $61,000.

Woltanski said, “We have a lot of great teachers. I think with the pay raise, it will still be challenging for a single earner, but it makes it a little easier when you have two earners in your family.”

Affordable housing for the school district in Trumbo will be where the administration building is now. The state will assist with that.

There may also be 14 units of affordable housing in the Upper Keys working with the county.

Woltanski said, “That was a new presentation to the board on Tuesday, the County Administrator has been working with the superintendent to bring the school board in on the project, which is underway right now. It’s a nice piece of property at mile marker 95, which is almost exactly between Coral Shores, our Plantation Key School and Key Largo School. So it’s really a good location for teachers. He wants to us to split the units with him. The school board doesn’t want to use money that is meant for students to build teacher housing, although we need teachers for the students. So we’re trying to figure out a way that we can participate in that.”

At the end of each school year, the talk turns to test scores.

Woltanski said, “The test scores that we’ve seen so far are very raw on a brand new test. So it’s not that I don’t think it’s important to look at that, but when I look at the school year, I see all the successes. Let’s just say we had students in the class consistently, for the whole year. We had no disruptions from illness and we had kids back being very successful in academic pursuits and in sports. It just seemed like a normal year. We have great teachers and when they engage students, the students will do well. The test scores that we’ve seen so far are very raw. We test everyone but not everyone’s score is calculated into the performance measures. So for example, if a child shows up from a non-English speaking country, they get tested, even if it’s the first day that they’re there. But those test scores don’t count for that child or for the school for a couple of years. So those are raw numbers that we’ve seen, so I’m not ready to pull a fire alarm. I think what it shows is that COVID impacted kids.”

The current tests are also now all on computers.

Woltanski said, “So our worst test performance, if you looked at those numbers, was really in fourth and fifth grade. Those are kids who have never taken a computer test before because it was always on paper before for them. We know that kids don’t do as well on computer tests as they do on paper tests. So I’m going to wait to see what the real numbers are, what they are comparative to other similar counties. Then each teacher can look at their specific data for specific children, that’s the most important part. See what that child is missing and figure out how to remediate that to help them pretty seamlessly into the next year. They’ll be able to catch those kids up.”

In the past, parents would get notified if their child was behind in reading and a new law requires that to happen in math as well.

Woltanski said, “So parents may be getting notified. People should expect that next year that they’ll get more frequent communication about math.”