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United Way Helps Local Agencies Aid Needy Volume 3.2 December 2011

RaiderGirls Net FinalFour Slot

Superintendent Speaks at FSU, Praised for Approach to Teacher Evaluation

Superintendent Tom Townsend

Changing the Tone on Student Growth Education students and others including NEFEC Executive Director Dr. Jim Surrency, that when he first took office, he pulled the evaluation of every district teacher.

Florida State University professor Dr. Russell Almond thanked Putnam County School Superintendent Tom Townsend Oct. 24 for taking a people approach in tackling the issue of measuring teacher performance. Townsend spoke at FSU’s 2011 College of Education Dean’s Symposium on PCSD’s Learning Gains Index, the value added model he implemented in Putnam schools two years ago to assess student growth under individual teachers.

“Keep in mind we were among the fastest falling districts,” Townsend told the crowd. “Yet the number of teachers who had an “unsatisfactory” was zero. There were eight teachers who received a “needs improvement” – out of 800. I told my staff ‘We don’t have a teacher issue here; we have an

Director of FSU’s Education Policy Center, Dr. Carolyn Herrington, introduced Townsend, saying his business experience and proactive approach has led to a value added model educators around the state are studying.

Today, Florida Senate Bill 736 requires teacher performance be tied to student achievement based primarily on FCAT scores, and all 67 state school districts are working to implement value added models.

administration issue.’ No one was told what was expected.”

“You seem to be focused on fixing problems rather than laying blame,” Almond told Townsend as he took questions from audience members after he spoke.

“This was really powerful for our teachers because they started asking ‘What about my students?’”

In his speech, Townsend told the crowd of FSU educators, College of page 2

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Townsend said after some initial push back, teachers became interested in the data.

Townsend said an important step in using LGI was defining expectations.

“In Putnam County, we decided a good teacher grows students; that doesn’t mean we don’t count the other things, but that is most important.” Townsend said among the challenges integrating the model in Putnam County is some of what makes it a great place to live. “In a small community, these are people we know, people who in many cases taught us, and taught us lessons you can’t measure – but still, student growth matters,” Townsend said. “And a Level 3 (on the FCAT) is not the target. Student growth is the target. Our highest achieving students need to be pushed as much as our lowest. I think the Florida Legislature has done a great job putting us in a spot where we must measure student growth. But the tone has been wrong.” In September 2010, PCSD was awarded a $7.3 million Teacher Incentive Fund federal grant. PCSD was one of 62 districts in America to win the competitive grant that funds teacher bonuses for improving student scores. Townsend said one of the more difficult incidents in rolling out LGI happened when at a workshop, the district’s LGI team inadvertently showed a teacher’s name along with data showing a lack of growth among her students. “The teacher was furious and she should have been,” Townsend said. “I asked her to come to my office so I could apologize. And because she is such a professional, she waited about

48 hours, then came in and told me ‘I am furious about what happened, but I also know I wasn’t teaching that year. That’s not me.’ And it wasn’t.” Townsend said the teacher had very good historical data in growing students and has returned to that achievement level. “Teachers, like all of us, have things that come into their lives that complicate work,” Townsend said. “Once teachers in our district realized this was a tool to lift them up – not to be used against them – things began to change. It’s not perfect, but we are making real progress.” Event speakers included a statistician from Rand Corporation, a Michigan schools value added expert and a panel of teachers – all speaking about issues related to value added models. Townsend said PCSD has another model based on LGI in development. “We’re now developing this same model for students,” he said. “Our kids, just like our teachers, will be able to log in and see where they compare.” Director of FSU’s Education Policy Center, Dr. Carolyn Herrington, introduced Townsend, saying his business experience and proactive approach has led to a value added model educators around the state are studying. Townsend said because of the controversy around teacher assessment models, many miss the most important impact of data collection. “I think the mistake we make is looking at the data and instantly making judgments,” Townsend said. “It simply tells you where you are so you can better assess where you need to be.”

Crescent City Jr./Sr. High

Girls Volleyball The Crescent City Jr./Sr. High School Varsity Volleyball team made head coach Holly Pickens’ 29th season a memorable one.

The Raiders advanced to the Florida High School Athletic Association 1A Final Four Nov. 15 in Kissimmee. It was the girls’ first trip to state since 1986, and despite dropping their semi-final game to Mayo Lafayette, Pickens said the team played together as well as any in her three decades of coaching at the South Putnam high school.

“They were very easy to coach,” Pickens said. The team, which finished the year 22-7, loses seniors Kayshia Brady, Vicktoria Williams and Alexia Sepulveda. Pickens said it will be the first season in about 10 she doesn’t have a Sepulveda sister on the team. Brady has twice been the Putnam County player of the year and is a serious contender for the top award this season. Pickens said all three girls should play in college. Despite the loss of top talent, Pickens is hopeful about team success next year. “We lose a lot,” she said. “But I’m always excited for the next year.”

Superintendent Tom Townsend presents at FSU, speaking about the Learning Gains Index and the progress being made in Putnam County Schools.

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Linda Osborne Migrant Education Center

Winner of the Ohtli Award For three decades, Linda Osborne has helped create a community in Putnam County. Osborne directs the Putnam County School District’s Migrant Education Center, which from three modest portables off Huntington Road provides aid in nearly every facet of life to the county’s immigrant population.

Working at the center with Osborne and longtime assistant director, Lucy Robles are Deisy Meza, Elmer Albarran, Edith Salazar and Ignacio Robles. Lucy Robles suggested to the Mexican Government that it consider Osborne a candidate for the prestigious Ohtli.

Osborne, who has worked in education for 39 years, was recently presented the Ohtli award from the Mexican government for her work helping immigrants attain better quality of life in America.

“I have to give my staff recognition,” Osborne said. “We’ve had very few changes, and it takes all of us working together to accomplish everything.” page 4

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Fern pickers, Osborne said, are paid by the bunch. And the pay has remained essentially flat for decades. “The wages really haven’t changed a whole lot,” she said. “It’s backbreaking work. And the sad truth is we would not have vegetables on our dinner plates if migrant workers were not doing the work many others do not want to do because of the low pay and intensity.”

“They’re here to live; they’re here to work,” Osborne said of the families the center serves. “On a day-to-day basis, they are just striving to do what any family would do.”

From the center’s wood-paneled main office, a team of six staff members who interact like family provide migrant residents and their families tutoring, child care and help with finances while facilitating relationships between community and school. The center’s hours are long – Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. Between 35 and 40 people visit each day, Osborne estimated. Staff members all do a bit of everything, and Osborne said their unity makes juggling schedules easy.

she said. They could live in labor camps set up by employers. Now the migrant population is about 95 percent Hispanic, mostly men and women with children. And children are not allowed in labor camps.

It is Osborne’s job to help those families find decent places to live, oversee English classes, tutoring, coaching and more in helping them navigate the challenges of immigrant life in today’s America. “She sees every child as a child,” Robles said of Osborne. “She is the cornerstone of the center. Because of her vision of providing service to everyone in need, so many people’s lives in this county have been improved.” Robles said Osborne is a boss OK with getting her hands dirty, earning the “Bob the Builder” moniker the staff gives her for a willingness to go from writing a grant one moment to fixing a leaky pipe the next. When Osborne began working with the immigrant population, it comprised mostly single black men,

Osborne said parent participation in local schools has increased as the migrant center grows. “They’re getting more and more focused,” she said. “Parents in Mexico are very much involved.” Osborne said in her current career stage, retirement is an always present idea. But she has no immediate plans to leave the people she serves. “I love what I do,” Osborne said. “I retired; then I came back. I’ve always had the philosophy that if you’re going to work, you should enjoy what you do.”

James A. Long and First Coast Technical College

Farm to Table, Better Food for Kids A chef at First Coast Technical College says Putnam is leading the way among area districts in getting more fruits and vegetables to student trays.

standpoint, too,” Bearl said. “The average carrot travels 1,800 miles to get to a school cafeteria.”

Chef David Bearl, Director of College Advancement at FCTC, said workshops he held in three area school districts bore plans from all to add to school menus fruits and vegetables grown closer to the homes of kids. And Putnam was first to the table.

“Putnam’s taking the lead,” Bearl said as James A. Long’s cafeteria spun with activity Nov. 10, its workers moving between steel ovens and serving trays holding Satsumas from Satsuma and Ratatouille made with all Florida ingredients. “With the other districts, it’s in the works. But you guys really stepped up.” Watson’s Produce Owner Paul Lazecki, who sold the district fruits and vegetables eaten on kickoff day, said he thinks the program is the start of something greater than a healthy lunch. “It’s really important for the farms and the schools,” he said. “It opens up markets for the farmers and we know that the longer it takes to get the food to the table after it’s picked, the more nutrients are lost.” Bearl said the program brings increased efficiency and nutrition to school cafeterias. “It’s not just exciting from a nutrition standpoint but from an economic

Students snapped up slices of Bearl’s squash pizza fast enough to require Cafeteria Manager Theresa King to make new ones at a rapid clip. “It’s getting a great response,” King said. “And my crew is working hard to make it happen.” The USDA is taking a hands-on approach to changing student lunches in public schools – emphasizing serving kids at least 3 oz. of fresh fruits and vegetables a minimum of three times a week. Bearl credits much of the progress in Putnam County to longtime Food Services Director Karen Swartout.

needs ahead of their own.” Swartout pitched in getting food to the serving line as kids grabbed bananas from a bin. She said PCSD plans to integrate more locally grown produce into high school menus in the near future. “I think we are going to see a lot more of incorporating local foods into the menus of schools throughout the country,” Swartout said. “The kids seem to like it. And they’re doing better on the vegetables than I thought they would.”

“Karen Swartout is respected throughout the state,” he said. “Her staff is doing a great job implementing something that, initially is more work. But they’re putting the children’s December 2011

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Drive to Help

United Way

Every holiday season, generosity in Putnam County shines a little brighter. One organization leveraging that spirit and its reputation is The United Way of Putnam County, which, in its 20th year, has eight local charities under its umbrella. The United Way of America started in the latter part of the 19th Century when Colorado church leaders formed the parent organization with the goal of coordinating fund raising efforts for disparate charities. The American chapter now has nearly 1,300 charities under its umbrella and collects about $4 billion in donations each year. “A big advantage to the charities is access to workplace giving,” United Way of Putnam County Executive Director David Hoak said. Employees, including those at Seminole Electric Cooperative, Georgia-Pacific and the Putnam County School District, can choose to have donations deducted from page 6

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their paychecks, making giving easier. “The charities also get exposure they are not able to get on their own,” Hoak said. United Way representatives give presentations to groups and businesses, where charities under the umbrella get critical exposure. “Our United Way has a long history in the community of assisting the various areas of the county,” Hoak said. One of the local agencies, the St. Vincent DePaul Society, provides assistance including food, furniture and help with utility bills from its 111 N. Francis St. location in Interlachen. “It helps being a member agency,” said St. Vincent DePaul Executive Director Bud Surratt. “We depend upon that check we get every month based on the allocation we receive.” Surratt said his charity needs food more than any other necessity, as a spike in those seeking it arrived with the slumping economy.

Surratt said St. Vincent DePaul donated more than 1,000 pieces of children’s clothing in August, as some families needed collared shirts that are part of the school dress code. At the Heart of Putnam Food Bank at 820 Reid Street, food bank manager Janette Dorn said a typical count of 650 families fed monthly jumped to more than 2,000 families fed in October. Dorn said the efficiency of United Way is invaluable in allowing the food bank to operate. Cara Taylor Swift, executive director of Lee Conlee House, said without United Way, families coming to the Conlee shelter in need of immediate help might not get it. “When a family comes in and there is an immediate need for diapers or other necessities, we’re able to use that United Way funding right away,” Swift said. “The funds they provide are almost impossible to attain via state or federal grants.”

Kiwanis Club of Palatka

Scholarships for Students

It takes a team to feed Panther football fans.

For years, a small army of volunteers has worked the concessions at Palatka’s football stadium, selling soda, hamburgers and popcorn to help fill high school coffers. “Every penny we make goes back into the school,” said Trent Higginbotham of the Kiwanis Club of Palatka. The club gives about five or six annual $1,000 scholarships from concession proceeds. Despite their proximity, booth workers rarely see action on the field. “We get a peek through the fence on the visitors side when they’re near the goal line,” Higginbotham said. “But we don’t get to see much.” And there’s little chance for halftime breaks. “You’ve got to really brace yourself when halftime comes,” said Robin Robinson, station manager at WHIF Hope FM and Palatka Kiwanis member. “There’s a big rush.” It’s not only Kiwanians running the stands. “Even some people who aren’t members of Kiwanis come out and help,” Higginbotham said. Team members arrive at the football stadium about 5 p.m. to get ready.

dozen volunteers processing and cooking food. “We do a lot of yelling,” Robinson said of gameday operations. Kiwanians also support the infrastructure that keeps food and drink available to fans. One club member recently refurbished the booths’ gas lines; another fixed a drain. Palatka Kiwanis Club President Sally Leitzman said the club is the oldest Kiwanis club in Florida, having just celebrated its 90th birthday. In addition to running the stadium concessions, Palatka Kiwanis also helps fund other school district activities including Terrific Kid award ceremonies.

“It’s a team effort,” Robinson said. “We enjoy doing our part to help the students.”

Behind those manning the counters is a team of about a

PHS Boys Place 4th in District Relays

Swim Team

Palatka High School senior swimmer, Jared

MacGibbon (center), dives in the pool Oct. 27 at the District 4, Class 2A, Boys Swim Team

Finals held at Gainesville’s Stephen C. O’Connell

Center. The Panther boys, led by Head Coach Josh White, finished fourth in the 200 and 400 Yard Freestyle Relay.

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Putnam County Schools 200 South 7th Street Palatka, FL 32177 386-329-0510

Tentative Community Parent Meetings Dates Place

Date Time


Jan. 10, 2012

6:30-7:30 pm


Jan. 12, 2012

6:30-7:30 pm


Jan. 19, 2012

6:30-7:30 pm

Miller Inter.

Jan. 24, 2012

6:30-7:30 pm

Q.I. Roberts

Jan. 26, 2012

6:30-7:30 pm

Palatka High

Feb. 21, 2012 6:30-7:30 pm


Feb. 16, 2012

6:30-7:30 pm

Volume 3.2 December 2011

Literacy Focus Tony Coley, a second-grade student at James A. Long Elementary School, reads with school custodian Tracy Weaver during lunch. Throughout the district, employees of all disciplines are reading to students as part of the increased focus on literacy in Putnam County schools. Latest District News Blogs

Home Visits

Kelley Smith Elementary School teachers recently went into the homes of students to foster connections among themselves, their pupils and their families. “Every teacher visited at least one home, many two or three,” said Kelley Smith Principal Tammie Driggers. “We saw at least 41 children.” A pre-visit pep talk by longtime Putnam educator Verlene Bennett helped calm a few teacher’s nerves. “It opens the teacher’s world into that child’s world,” Bennett said of home visits. “We are always inviting parents into schools. But we sometimes need to break down those barriers and go where they live.” Kelley Smith teachers took books, pencils and a timer for fluency exercises to student’s homes. “I think it was a big success,” said Sylvia Severance, in her 31st year teaching in Putnam. “We got into three or four groups and just went into the neighborhood. The teachers were really excited and now want to do it again.” Third-grade teacher Tamara Alford said she gained important insight into her students’ home life. Alford said she was surprised by happy reactions from students, calling “Hey Ms. Alford! – Hey Ms. Driggers!” in the street and greeting them with wide smiles at the door. “What I saw from it was a lot of little issues that were solved in that one visit,” she said. “It has created personal connections that were not there. Now I can say to a kid, ‘You smile like your mom; you look like your mom.’”

InSight Magazine 3.2  

Putnam County School District 's parent magazine

InSight Magazine 3.2  

Putnam County School District 's parent magazine