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Santa Rosa schools look to the future

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Brandi Bates
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Santa Rosa County School District

Karen Barber is not going to focus on the past success of the Santa Rosa School District. She is out to improve each school in the county.

After all, there are new students every year who deserve a solid education, she said Monday night.

Barber, the district’s superintendent ending the first year of her four-year elected term, told a crowd of about 60 students, parents, teachers, administrators and others assembled at Pace High’s Freedom Hall that there is always room for improvement in the classroom. The meeting was the first of six conducted by the district at county high schools to chart a map for the future. Each is scheduled to be 6 to 8 p.m. this week and next.

Barber said students continue to enroll daily in county schools. Though the current enrollment is 29,200 — it was projected to be 28,116 this year — she expects total enrollment to be about 30,000 by the end of the school year.

“The largest increase is high schools,” Barber said, noting more than 500 additional teens have enrolled in county high schools.

The meeting was geared toward seeking input about how to improve the schools in District 4, represented by Charles Elliott. Based on 1,090 responses about the elementary schools — Bennett C. Russell, Pea Ridge Elementary, and Dixon Primary — 89% of students felt safe at school. That’s 1 percentage point less than the county average. Also, 75% agreed that there are opportunities to improve their performance, 3 points less than the county average. Barber noted that only 55% participate in school activities, she said that’s an ideal area to improve. Barber also said a recent survey showed 85% of parents advocate for their students.

“So we have 15% who want to learn that skill,” she said before the audience broke into groups to share thoughts on the future of schools in that district.

Surveys aside, Barber said the goal of the district is the students.

“Our mission is to love, educate and prepare our students for a successful future well beyond this,” she said.

The district has hired Georgia-based Cognia, a global consultant, to assist with the presentations and long-range planning. Each presentation will be tailored to the other four districts. Here is the meeting schedule:

  • Today 6-8 p.m. – District 3: Navarre High School, 8600 High School Blvd., Navarre
  • Wednesday 6-8 p.m. – District 5: Gulf Breeze High School, 675 Gulf Breeze Pkwy., Gulf Breeze
  • Monday 6-8 p.m. – District 1: Milton High School, 5445 Stewart St., Milton
  • Nov. 16 6-8 p.m. – District 2: Jay High School, 13863 S. Alabama St., Jay
  • Nov. 18 6-8 p.m. – District 2: Central School, 6180 Central School Road, Milton

On another note, The Santa Rosa County District Schools Board will meet and hold their annual reorganization at a.m. Nov. 16 at 5086 Canal St. in Milton. The agenda is available online. All meetings are live-streamed and archived for later viewing. Email comments to DOC@santarosa.k12.fl.us and place “Public Comment” in the subject line.

Tom Ninestine is the managing editor at WUWF. He began August 1, 2019. Tom is a native of Geneva, New York, and a 1983 graduate of King's College in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, where he studied journalism and political science. During a 29-year career in newspapers he worked for the Finger Lakes Times in his hometown; The Daily Item in Sunbury, Pennsylvania; and the Pensacola News Journal from 1998-2016.