There have been many changes in education during Paul Puletti’s term as Superintendent of Hendry County Schools. As other Florida districts, Hendry County has had to regear for new educational standards and testing. As superintendent, Mr. Puletti has guided the district’s teachers and supported them as they immersed themselves in the new standards. He said it’s been a difficult challenge.
It has meant working to align all Hendry County schools to eliminate differences between them – making each elementary curriculum the same so each student’s experience dovetails into the middle schools – and the same for middle school students to the high schools.
Mr. Puletti said this process is crucial and needs to continue without interruption.
Educational standards have changed so much and now more than ever require more interaction with students. For instance, students have to be able to read a text and determine the author’s purpose in writing it, beginning in the third grade.
Florida State Standards are more strenuous than the old FCAT, he said.
Mr. Puletti is proud of the district’s success as it embraces the new standards. Often, Hendry County’s school grades have declined when they face assessment by new standards. This time, though, our schools have held their own in the first year of new standards. This past year the district had no failing schools and this year they will look for more improvement in school grades.
This past year Hendry County School District earned a solid “C” grade – gratifying for a first year, but Mr. Puletti’s goal is for the district to earn an A or B.
The plan for that is all laid out, Mr. Puletti said, to continue the process. Teachers at various levels will meet to share ideas and build on successes. This process can help students articulate to the next grade. This part of the plan is essential, Mr. Puletti said, especially for students who are changing campuses.
No parent sends their child to school to fail, Mr. Puletti commented, so it’s also important for people to understand the challenge for schools and students.
Parents need to be involved but should contact their child’s school to find out the best way they can do that. He said they need to stay in contact with the teacher and the school. Keep communication open; use the conference days, online help; call the school; attend book fairs, fundraisers, and so on. Be a part of their child’s school community.
As Superintendent of Schools, Mr. Puletti said most of his days start the same, with paperwork in the office. He likes to visit at least two schools in the county every day and always ends up dealing with problems as they come up.
Mr. Puletti has extensive experience as a classroom teacher and as a LaBelle High School administrator. He has 33 years of experience in Hendry County schools – and there is no substitute for that, he points out.
Also, his time as Mayor of LaBelle helped him understand how to serve the public, he notes.
More change is coming. The school board has signed a lease to put in a Pre-K at Montura. This summer in Pioneer Plantation the district established an academy camp attended by 34 students, with a teacher, two helpers and the support of some funding for an academic elementary program.
The district is also returning to vocational training for students with the support of local business. A welding program is now being put on through the adult school in the shop area behind Clewiston Middle School with a mechanics program beginning this school term. They open to all Hendry County high school students. These are being added to the health and computer programs already available. The vocational programs are being driven by business needs, Mr. Puletti commented.
The district is also working toward a collegiate high school in Clewiston in which professors would teach dual enrollment classes at CHS. With Florida Southwestern nearby, LaBelle High School students already enjoy proximity to dual enrollment classes.
Mr. Puletti is a product of Hendry County schools himself, along with his children. His grandson is the third generation of the family in local schools.
Students need the basics: be able to follow directions, follow written directions; work well with others; be on time; and take work/school seriously. The new standards are intended to help students get those basics.
Hendry County schools serve some 7,300 students and as superintendent, Mr. Puletti understands that they are at somewhat of a disadvantage compared to students in larger, richer districts. Even “equalization” funding from the state does not truly level the playing field between large and small counties, he said, and he would like to see a change in distribution of these funds.