LABELLE — Superintendent Paul Puletti sees signs in the state Department of Education’s recent report of school grades that public education in Hendry County is improving.
While the district maintained the same overall grade of “C,” one grade school saw its score rise out of failing territory and jumped off the state DOE’s close watch list with a solid C.
“There are some things that are very promising in Hendry County,” said Mr. Puletti. “Here’s where we are locally. We have four ‘B’ schools, one ‘D’ school and the rest are ‘C’s. So we were able to get rid of the ‘F’ school that we had.”
That was LaBelle Elementary School.
“They have a ‘C’ this year and they’re off the watch list,” he said, acknowledging that “all the schools will still be under scrutiny by the state, but they’re (LES) not under the intensive assistance program that they had to be when they had the F.
“So overall our district is a C with no F schools and two secondary schools that are Bs. So that’s quite an achievement for this area.”
One Clewiston school slips
While Clewiston High School maintained its “C” grade, Clewiston Middle School dropped to a “D.”
“Clewiston Middle School missed the ‘C’ by one percentage point,” he pointed out. “But they know that two ‘D’s in a row are not good, so they’re under a lot of directive to improve to at least a C next year,” Superintendent Puletti continued.
In LaBelle, only Country Oaks Elementary’s grade fell, while LaBelle High School improved from a “C” to a “B.”
Superintendent Puletti wanted to commend the principal, teachers and students at the LaBelle grade and high schools, crediting Principal Jane Hatfield at LES in particular.
“It’s putting the right person in charge of the school and directing instruction and then having teachers who responded … and students who took it seriously and did well. We’re very proud of the work that the teachers and students did at that school,” Mr. Puletti said.
Teacher shortfall easing
Asked about Hendry County’s outlook for teaching staff openings remaining for the upcoming 2019-2020 school session, Puletti said there won’t be a shortage like there was before 2018-19.
“We are closing in on filling; in LaBelle, we have pretty much filled all our positions. We had for some reason a big influx of teachers from Lee County apply and we’re two or three short in two of our schools in Clewiston, but we’re closing in on that gap.”
Superintendent Puletti said that makes him feel much better going into the new year.
“Now, part of that is due to the fact that we’ve already settled our contract negotiations, and we have a very reasonable starting salary now for teachers. And we just did not have the turnover that we traditionally had. I’m not saying every school is going to be full (staff), but we’re not going to open the school year with 35 vacancies like we did last year.”