It’s been my good fortune to have the benefit of an active and growing Alachua County Council of PTAs since the beginning of my tenure as Superintendent of Alachua County Public Schools. That’s something most of my predecessors over the last ten or fifteen years haven’t had. Our district’s strong partnership with the ACCPTA is making a significant difference for our district in many ways.
The ACCPTA has been instrumental in bringing together parents, teachers and local citizens in many ways. PTAs have been established or revitalized at a number of our local schools. The ACCPTA has helped organize forums on important topics ranging from school safety to mental health to the future of public education. The ACCPTA leadership has been active in many district and community groups, ensuring that the voices of students, parents and educators are well represented. And of course, ACCPTA continues to be a strong advocate for public schools at the state level.
That support is critical, especially as our local schools and public education as a whole face many challenges.
Most of you know that our school facilities are in very poor shape. They’re old, outdated, and many of them are overcrowded. Unfortunately, the state has cut facilities funding by about $168 million over the last ten years. That’s created a crisis situation in our district and those throughout the state.
Back in September, the School Board decided to ask Alachua County voters to approve a half-cent sales tax to repair, renovate and build capacity at their local schools. Since then, the ACCPTA leaders, in partnership with district staff members, have visited every school in the district, most more than once, to share information and gather input about the needs at our schools. I had the pleasure of making several school presentations with the help of ACCPTA board members, and I can tell you their participation was very meaningful for the parents, teachers and other citizens who attended.
The ACCPTA and our school PTAs have come through in other crisis situations this year. They stepped up before, during and after Hurricane Irma, helping care for the 2000 or so evacuees who took shelter in our schools and then cleaning up campuses afterward to prepare for the return of students.
Of course, the most shocking crisis of the school year was the tragic shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February. In the days immediately following the shooting, ACCPTA organized a moving candelight vigil that helped our community deal with its feelings of grief, fear and frustration. Since then, ACCPTA has helped the district communicate with parents about what we do to ensure the safety of our students and staff. That includes having more school resource officers in place than probably any other district in Florida. It includes ALICE training conducted at all our schools months before the Parkland shooting, and even some parent workshops conducted this month.
As the parent of an Alachua County Public School student, a former teacher and now Superintendent, I appreciate everything that ACCPTA and the school PTA units are doing to support children and education.
I could not let this school year end without recognizing outgoing ACCPTA president Khanh-Lien Banko. It is thanks to her vision, her determination and her tireless efforts that Alachua County Public Schools once again has the benefit of a strong county council. She has made a positive difference in our schools and our community that will last for years to come and I know will continue to do so.
Of course, Khanh-Lien also had a wonderful leadership team, most of whom have been part of ACCPTA since it was re-chartered two years ago. I look forward to working with the new president and all of our ACCPTA and PTA friends during the 2018-19 school year.
On behalf of the School Board and the entire district, I want to thank everyone for their support during this very eventful school year. I hope you all enjoy a safe and happy summer break!
Alachua County Public Schools