Madison County making decisions for upcoming school year

By: Sophia Hernandez | WCTV Eyewitness News
June 17, 2019

MADISON COUNTY, Fla. (WCTV) – Since February, the Madison County School Board has been plagued with financial issues. One of the solutions that was proposed, was the layoffs of more than 35 faculty members. The board tabled that option until Monday night's board meeting, where members finally put the issues to rest.

After almost 2 hours of discussion, the school board came up with alternative solutions to their staffing for the upcoming school year. Another topic that brought much controversy and concern was possible enhancements to the current guardian program.

With no layoffs made since their last meeting in February, the board took the time to approve recommendations for 18 instructional and 48 non-instructional employees, as well as the resignations of 23 district employees.

Carol Gibson, the chairman of the board, talks about their progression, "Things are looking up and decisions have been made and we had a hiring freeze and we are still in a hiring freeze."

Last year, the district had 157 teachers, but they are projecting 140 teachers for the 2019-2020 school year. The board says that is enough to monitor classrooms and keep the district out of their financial struggles.

Gibson mentions, "It looks like we are smooth sailing for now, we are being cautiously optimistic lets put it that way."

But with 2,025 students district-wide, the need for more school resource officers is high.

Law enforcement, like Deputy Epp Richardson, asks for change, "It leaves the school vulnerable and we could cover that if we had certain guardians assigned to those schools as well."

Madison is one of 25 districts out of the 67 in Florida that currently has the guardian program. But Gibson agrees with the community, in saying they need more people, "We live in a world which requires us to make these tough decisions and we've been elected to make a tough decision."

The decision that was made was that those that voluntarily want to complete 144 hours of training, have a psych evaluation and a drug test, can become a guardian as long as they are not in the classroom.

The hope Richardson shares, "Not to have to be in so much fear of the day an active shooter may show up in Madison County."

And with no more cuts, and added heightened security, the board and community of Madison are hopeful for the new school year.

The board currently has interim superintendent, after the previous superintendent, Dr. Pickles, resigned. The board does not know when a permanent superintendent will be instated.