Gadsden Co. school reconfiguration plan passes, superintendent responds to concerns

Published: Jan. 27, 2017 at 6:12 PM EST
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By: Lanetra Bennett

April 5, 2017

QUINCY, Fla. (WCTV) -- The schools reconfiguration plan in Gadsden County is final. The school board voted 3-2 to approve it Tuesday night.

Superintendent Roger Milton held a press conference Wednesday to explain the plan for the 2017-2018 school year. He said the entire initiative is grounded in putting students first. He spoke before a group of school employees and district administrators.

Milton said more emphasis will now be placed on early learning.

Over the past few months of discussing the reconfiguration plan, many parents said they were skeptical.

"I was one of them. I was against it at first," said Harriett Belvis.

But, now that it's approved: "I think eventually us all parents will come to a point where we accept it. I say it might be a good thing and it might be a change for the better," Belvis said.

However, Belvis's third grade daughter, Desire, isn't sold on the idea. Her school, Gretna Elementary, is closing down. She said, "I feel bad because I liked this school. All my friends are going to go to another school."

Gretna Pre-K through third graders will now go to Greensboro Elementary School.

Fourth and fifth graders from Gretna and Greensboro will go to West Gadsden Middle School, which is currently West Gadsden High.

West Gadsden high schoolers will move to East Gadsden High. It will become one school where East Gadsden is located, but there will be a new name, new colors, and new mascot.

St. John Elementary will also shut down. Kids there will go to George Munroe Elementary School and Shanks Middle School.

Superintendent Milton says he does not anticipate any layoffs. "We will through openings and positions at other schools, transfer those employees to those other schools."

He says transportation for students won't be a problem, saying school start times won't begin earlier; and mixing elementary and middle schoolers on the bus will be safe.

"Over the years, businesses, communities, parents, everybody has said that they wanted change. Change to me means improvements. So, we are improving and we want everybody to embrace this change," Superintendent Milton said.

He said a tentative name for the high school is "One Gadsden". But, he says they'll seek student input on a new name, colors, and mascot. That information should be unveiled this summer.

Chavien Lockwood, a teacher at East Gadsden High, said he's not worried about the concerns of the rival high school students not getting along when merged. He said, "Kids are going to be kids and tension will calm down eventually. So, we'll be just fine."

The changes will take effect in August at the start of the new school year.

By: Erin Lisch

April 4, 2017

QUINCY, Fla. (WCTV) -- After several community meetings and workshops, the Gadsden County School Board has decided to makeover the district, struggling financially.

The district will have a very different look next school year, with schools closing, merging and potentially new ones being built.

People of Gadsden make their voices heard, “It's time to make the education system what it once was."

A room packed as action takes place for the school district's reconfiguration.

Many cheered after the decision was made to merge West and East Gadsden High Schools.

The board also passing plans to build a new K-8 school.

City officials asking questions before the vote to close Gretna, "Are you telling my teachers that the day that you close Gretna Elementary school they're all laid off? They got to go find a job? So if you're not going to lay."

School board members’ feelings are mixed.

Board member Charlie Frost said about the busing with the new plan, "This thing isn't going to work out like it used to, it's going to be a nightmare."

School board member Ronald Scott said, "The greater good tells me at this point of time this is the best plan."

However many parents and teachers backing this decision.

Excited about the outcome, Chavien Lockwood said, "This plan instantly takes us off life support and it gives us a chance to thrive not only as a school district but as a community as one as a whole."

Wanting to give these plans a chance.

One community member said, "Eventually when our kids start striving our parents will eventually be satisfied with the results of this vote."

Hoping this will help Gadsden County Rosetta Hylton-Anderson said, "The main important thing is the children getting the best education."

A big feat for the district as these actions will take place, in the 2017-2018 school year.

By: Erin Lisch

March 13, 2017

GADSDEN COUNTY, Fla. (WCTV) -- A moment many students and parents have waited for, the Gadsden County School Board making a decision on the recent proposal to reconfigure its schools.

For now, this proposal will be put on hold for the next school year.

Gadsden community members have different opinions when it comes to the proposed reconfiguration plan for 11 schools.

Living in Gadsden County for decades, resident Emanuel Sapp said, "Our kids deserve better and they deserve to be as one."

Concerned about the proposed merger, Francis Brown said, "West Gadsden is in Greensboro and it's a community, and it needs to stay that way."

Gadsden County resident Rick Soskis said, "You can't lose money every year and lose students every year and continue with an already horribly deficient budget."

Board members gave suggestions on what to do moving forward.

School board member Audrey Lewis said, "Convert Chattahoochee Elementary School to a theme based public charter school."

School board member Charlie Frost said, "We have 6-12 at West Gadsden. I think we can do the same thing at East Gadsden make them 6-12"

Some say the superintendent’s plan is acting too quickly.

School Board chairman Isaac Simmons said, "I am convinced that we are trying to move too fast, too quick and we don't know where were going."

Superintendent Roger Milton says he doesn't think it should go this way, but there will be no configuration for 2017-2018.

Superintendent Milton is putting the ball in the court of the board, "Let them give me some thoughts and ideas and I'm going to be right there to figure out what that is but I will take guidance for them."

A new change of plans in this reconfiguration of schools.

Alicia Turner

February 27, 2017

GADSDEN CO., Fla. (WCTV) -- “I just don’t feel like the merger should happen,” said Tina Henry. Her thoughts echoed by many in the crowd, as they send a clear message to the superintendent, many of them not happy about the idea of West Gadsden High School merging with East Gadsden.

"It’s like everything is beneficial for the east side, and not for the west side. It’s about time for the west side to have something," Tina said.

The merging high schools are just one part in a larger district-wide reconfiguration plan. A plan being proposed by Superintendent Roger Milton. However, not many parents are on board.

Tina explained, "If we can’t get transportation to West Gadsden, then how can we get transportation to East Gadsden?"

Frances Brown, another parent, said, "They say it's 30 minutes, that’s 30 minutes straight. That’s going straight down Hwy 90. That's not counting all those holes and things out there trying to get there.”

Transportation is just one issue. The other concern voiced by parents is whether or not the students will get along.

"I think that it’s going to be a rivalry between the two schools the East side and the West side. It has always been that way," Tina said.

But Milton explained that the main reason for closing or merging several schools is money. He said right now neither of the schools are at capacity. Milton believes that a merger like this would give the district a chance to offer better resources to the students.

"AP classes and when it comes to more rigorous courses offered as far as students, I feel like we can better provide those services for students if we had them all together," Milton said.

By: Alicia Turner

February 13, 2017

QUINCY, Fla. (WCTV) -- "We need this school in Gadsden County."

Monday night, school board member Charlie Frost was one of dozens speaking out against a re-consolidation proposal.

Frost said, "'We have to go back to the drawing board and figure something else out."

The plan, drafted earlier this year, would close two elementary schools in Gadsden County, and merge the high schools. The superintendent says the changes could save the district more than $2 million.

Jewel Dixie, a Gadsden County resident, had this to say, "The County just doesn’t have the money like they used to have. I think it’s necessary."

Maresha Alexander, is a parent with two kids in the Gadsden County School District. She said, “I know that what we have currently here in Gadsden County is not working.”

Many who don’t want to see the doors close, say they want a school in their own community. Others say the most important thing is giving students a quality education.

"Nobody wants to see their school close, especially in the community," said Superintendent Roger Milton.

"So what we need to do is to get out of the tradition and be willing to change," Alexander said.

Superintendent Milton says the only way to make that change, is to reevaluate how the district is spending money.

"We're looking at what we can do with our current facilities, and how we can maximize what we currently have," Milton says.

Jewel Dixie says, "There will be no great changes made in the school system in Gadsden County until the parents support the school system."

Support that Milton says he knows won't come overnight, but says is key to moving forward.

By: Lanetra Bennett

January 27, 2017

QUINCY, Fla. (WCTV) -- The Gadsden County School District proposes consolidating West Gadsden High in Greensboro, with East Gadsden in Quincy.

West Gadsden would become a middle school.

Jonathan Canceco, a student at East Gadsden High, said, "East Gadsden is not that good of a school, so hopefully they can do something to bring the grades up, hopefully get good teachers out there."

The consolidation is a part of the district's proposed reconfigurations plan.

It says the purpose is to reduce overall cost of operating schools, discontinue use of old buildings, optimize student courses and programs, redistribute resources, and increase availability of funds for employee compensation.

One woman in Gadsden County said, "As a parent who has two children in the school system, I want my two children to have the best education possible. Therefore, whatever guidelines are set forth...overall, we just want our children to have the best education possible."

Other changes include closing St. John Elementary School; closing Gretna Elementary School and relocating Carter-Parramore Academy to that building; and move Gadsden Elementary Magnet School to a new K-through-eight school.

The projected overall savings for 2017-2018 from the two school closings is $2,629,904.

Other changes include moving Chattahoochee Elementary School to what would be the new West Gadsden Middle School. Chattahoochee Elementary would become an early learning center with grades Pre-K and kindergarten.

The report says the alternative is to do nothing and leave the schools as they are.

There have been concerns voiced by many parents. School Superintendent Roger Milton has not returned our phone calls to comment on the plan.

No word yet on when the plan will be voted on.

To view the complete proposal, click