Knott: Schools are safe

Published 12:05 am Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Escambia County Schools Superintendent John Knott said Feb. 22 that the schools within the system are a safe place for children to learn.

Knott made these comments during the most recent board of education meeting, which was held a little more than a week after 17 students and teachers were shot and killed by a lone gunman in Parkland, Fla.

Since the shooting on Feb. 14, there has been a national outcry for stiffer gun control laws. Gov. Rick Scott put his support behind a proposed law that would limit the age to buy a gun at 21.

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“Following the shooting, there was a lot of panic and conversation,” Knott said. “Our schools and leadership went into action.”

Knott said the sent out a directive on Feb. 15, ordering the flags to be flown at half-staff.

“I just want to reassure everyone that our schools are a safe place,” he said, adding that since the Parkland shooting, school resource officers and local law enforcement agencies have been pulling double duty at schools.

“They’ve stepped up to the challenge,” he said.

In fact, last Wed., Feb. 21, several area law enforcement agencies, including some outside of the county, participated in a training simulation at the former A.C. Moore Elementary School.

Knott spoke about the measure President Donald Trump introduced on arming teachers, and that may be something that needs to be done.

“We’re going to continue to look at safety protocols,” he said.

Knott said since the Parkland shooting, students are reporting others who are suspected of bullying and those who talk about violence.

“We are taking this matter very seriously,” he said.

A highlight of the meeting for the board was the fact that the meeting was held in Escambia County High School’s new auditorium, which completed renovation recently.

The renovation project began back in August 2016.

The new auditorium features new stadium-style seating, a sound system, a new stage, new lighting and ceiling.

“This is an amazing project,” Knott said. “This is something the school and community can be proud of.”

Principal Reports

ECHS Principal Dennis Fuqua said the school has caught up to the system average for ninth grade math, and at present, juniors are receiving one hour of ACT prep per day in an effort to help bring their scores up.

To help further the effort, Fuqua said that juniors get to go through an ACT boot camp before the test in March. The program is paid for through a Title V grant.

At present, the graduation rate is at 86 percent at ECHS, up from 81 percent from 2014-2016, Fuqua said.

Fuqua said discipline referrals have decreased, and attendance has increased.

W.S. Neal Elementary School Principal Eric Andrews equated his school as an agency that offers a service to parents and stakeholders that make up the community, much like the department of veterans affairs.

He said some 79 percent of students receive a free and reduced lunch, and that enrollment has increased from 516 to 554.

In areas of improvement, Andrews said that 42 percent of students are seeing the school nurse, which is on campus full time.

Additionally, the back pack buddy program is a great asset to WSNES, he said.

Andrews said his aim is to make WSNES a National Blue Ribbon School.

Action Items

Chief School Financial Officer Julie Madden said that 97 percent of its ad valorem taxes have come in, and as of Jan. 31, 2018, the system has 4.01 months of operative reserves.

“We were at 2.84 months of operating reserve last month,” she said.

In other business, the board:

• approved the BOE code of conduct 2-2-1 and 2-2-2;

• approved a bid to replace the HVAC system at W.S. Neal High School; and,

• met in executive session to discuss the good name and character of an employee.