Okeechobee schools have 24 teacher vacancies

OKEECHOBEE — The Okeechobee County School Board is doing all it can to recruit and retain talented teachers. The state hasn’t made it easier as they have stiffened requirements and made the certification exam tougher for educators.

At their Tuesday meeting, the Okeechobee school board heard a presentation from Human Resources Director Sherry Wise on some of the things the district has been doing.

Human Resources Director Sherry Wise said the district has 24 vacant teaching positions.

She attended 29 job fairs this year. There were 66 teacher vacancies at the end of the school year. The district terminated 16 teachers, and 27 teachers resigned in June.

Eleven teachers were not able to pass certification exams this year. As a result they lost their jobs.

The state made the certification tests harder, said Ms. Wise. Statistics shows less than 69 percent of teachers were able to pass the essay, English, reading and math exams.

The district created a retention plan that includes tutors, mentors, additional training and even monetary assistance to provide additional support.

“I want to make the new teachers feel they are part of us and feel welcomed,” she said.

Jo’dejah Sewell was the only member of the OHS FFA Meat Judging Team who could attend the board meeting. The team finished second in the state at the FFA competition.

Ms. Wise said the district doesn’t have an official exit interview at the moment to find out why some educators leave. That is one of her projects for this year.

In other business, the board honored students who competed in Future Farmers of America competitions. Students honored at the meeting included the OHS FFA Meat Judging team that consists of Joel Davis, Jo’dejah Sewell, and Hunter Sills. The team finished second in the state competition. Sills was the top ranked individual in the state.

The OHS FFA Vegetable Judging Team was state champions. Members include Dayton Buxton, Maria Carrillo, Cady McGehee, and Mariah Wooten. McGehee was the individual state champion.

Kaitlyn Williams was one of the team members who led the OHS FFA Conduct of Meetings Team to a fifth place finish at the state competition.

The OHS FFA Conduct of Meetings team finished fifth in the state. Team members included Dayton Buxton, Cody Deloney, Kevin Dryden, Kendall Harrison, Jillian Kennedy, Aubrey Pearce and Kaitlyn Williams.

The board also honored FFA District 12 President Artha Jonassaint.

The Commissioner of Education honored the MidFlorida Credit Union with the Commissioners Business Recognition Award.

Superintendent Ken Kenworthy said the Credit Union is a big supporter of the school system. They provide monetary awards for the teachers of the year and school related employee of the year, provide scholarships to graduating seniors, assist in reading programs, and are always ready and willing to serve and assist the schools.

Three administrators in Okeechobee schools were honored for passing a leadership course this year. (L-R) Dylan Tedders, Carol Revels and Leslie Lundy.

The board honored three administrators who graduated from the Dr. Brian Dassler Leadership Academy this year Leslie Lundy, Carol Revels and Dylan Tedders.

Two employees, Marilyn Crowell and Faith Gerhardt were honored upon retirement.

Crowell served the district for 30 years as South Elementary School custodian.

In other actions, the board:
• Rescheduled the July 27 budget hearing from 6 p.m. to 5:01 pm.
• Appointed Cynthia Kibit as assistant principal at Seminole Elementary.
• Extended a contract with Attorney Glenn Sneider to provide legal advice on the Value Adjustment Board.
• Agreed to pay membership dues of $24,669 to the Heartland Education Consortium.
• Confirmed the appointment of Jennifer Ronkko Ellis as assistant principal at Everglades Elementary School.
• Learned employee health insurance premiums will drop by 2 percent.

Mr. Kenworthy said the district has a plan in place to improve math learning gains.

He said district transportation will be able to accommodate three schools with longer days without changing instruction times at other schools. Seminole, Central and Everglades will have an additional hour of reading instruction.

Board member Jill Holcomb was absent.

Artha Jonassaint was honored by Superintendent Ken Kenworthy and the school board for her election as president of the FFA District 12 this year.


The Okeechobee school board honored the OHS FFA Conduct of Meetings team that finished fifth in the state. (L-R) Kevin Dryden, Cody Deloney, Dayton Buxton and coach Brian Dryden.


The Okeechobee school board honored the OHS FFA Vegetable Judging Team that was state champions. (L-R) Mariah Wooten and Cady McGehee.



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