Leon County Schools

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Leon County Schools

The Leon County School District is explaining itself to state lawmakers months after a disastrous audit. District officials claim they’re on the road to fixing the construction funding flop.

Leon County School District Superintendent Jackie Pons is upfront about the recent audit that found serious problems with the way the district pays for construction projects.

Governor Rick Scott’s promise to increase public school funding to record spending levels has local school districts crunching numbers, and his supporters carrying on the message.

Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart is touting the Governor’s education spending plan, which calls for nearly $20 billion to be put toward K-12 education. That averages out to nearly $7,200 hundred dollars per student.

The Florida Department of Education has rolled out the last batch of school grades it will issue under the outgoing Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.

For the most part, Leon County’s high school grades remained unchanged from last year, despite a harder grading scale. Lincoln High IS one of 55 high schools statewide to improve its letter grade, earning an “A”. That comes as the overall number of A-rated combination and high schools dropped. But Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart insists that’s a sign of progress.

Jackie Pons

Two new whistle-blowers have stepped forward in the Leon County Schools construction controversy. The whistle-blowers are both  Leon County Schools employees.

Sandra Davis, a worker in the Division of Facilities, Construction and Maintenance, filed for whistle-blower protection on June 4. In a letter to Leon County Superintendent Jackie Pons, Davis claims school construction projects have been deliberately undervalued to avoid a competitive bidding process. According to Davis, contracts appear to be awarded to construction companies that made donations to Pons’ campaign.

Leon County educators are lauding the results of Florida’s teacher evaluations. But, some are questioning whether teachers can possibly be as effective as the ratings suggest.

According to new teacher evaluation data released by the Florida Department of Education, there isn’t a single ineffective teacher in Leon County. About 90-percent of teachers were rated “highly effective” and the rest “effective.” Students First Florida spokesman Lane Wright, raised doubts about evaluation criteria.

LHatter / WFSU News

A Leon County couple is being charged with 10 misdemeanors for what the state says equates to failing to educate their eight children. The parents say they home school their kids, and that the case is a failure to recognize the rights of home schooling parents.

Jessica Palombo / WFSU News

Starting this fall, students at several Leon County elementary and middle schools will raise sunflower plants. But the program is part of a national movement aimed at raising something other than the flowers.

The Leon County School Board is getting closer to approving a $280 million budget for the upcoming school year.  The board’s Tuesday meeting was aimed at getting public input on the budget, but no one showed up to speak.

"The statutes outline a procedure through which we have to have this discussion a certain number of times," said Board member Dee Dee Rasmussen. "It’s been advertised multiple times in the media...I’ve been interviewed. It’s been in the Democrat, its been on TV, I’ve even put it on facebook."

Florida lawmakers added more than a billion dollars to the state’s education budget this year and that money has now trickled down to school districts.

Leon County’s share amounts to an additional $12 million.  in the district’s preliminary budget, most of the money, about $5.5 million will fund pay raises for Leon County teachers. The district’s Assistant Superintendent Barbara Wills says negotiations are still ongoing over how the raises will be distributed,

New Veterans' Memorial Unveiled Downtown

Jun 5, 2013
Chris Ford

A new memorial honoring veterans from Leon County schools now stands downtown. The tall granite slab is in front of the Bloxham Building. Leon County school spokesman Chris Petley said placing the memorial in front of the Bloxham Building was appropriate because of its history as the former Caroline Brevard School.

In the dedication ceremony, tearful family members placed roses at the base of the wall after the names of their loved ones were read aloud. Leon County Superintendent Jackie Pons spoke during the ceremony.


The scene is familiar. There are banners. There are balloons. Excited friends and family wander around taking photos of the soon-to-be graduates in their red cap and gowns. This is the graduation ceremony for the PACE Center for Girls, a partnership program run by the school district, and the department of juvenile justice. Students are referred to the center by both entities.

“If you look nationwide a lot of the problems we have in schools are females that have been abused or battered, and bring those issues to school and they act out because they’re seeking attention.”  

L.Hatter / WFSU

Rebecca Kirchharr’s classroom is filled with students, school and district officials all smiling, hugging and cheering. Kirchharr, who started as a teacher in Pensacola seven years ago and has been teaching at Leon High School for the past three years, says he wasn’t expecting the award.

“Teachers, we can’t do it alone, and sometimes its difficult because we’re so busy but what’s so amazing about Leon is how we come together for the betterment of the kids.," she said.

The Florida Department of Education has released its annual high school grade report and the number of school’s earning A’s has increased. 

The Board of Education adopted a rule keeping high school grades from falling more than a letter after districts complained about all of the changes to the grading formula. Seventy-eight percent of Florida High schools received A’s and B’s. The number of "A" school’s increased, and the number of D’s and F schools fell. Interim Education Commissioner Pam Stewart says she’s pleased with the report:

Leon County teachers could soon be seeing a pay increase.  Negotiations between the district, and the local union are underway as both sides look for a deal.

It’s been more than three years since Leon County school teachers got a pay raise. During that time, the district lost about $100 million due to state budget cuts, and it also closed some schools and shrunk programs. However, unlike other areas of the state, the district managed to avoid teacher layoffs. School board chairwoman Joy Bowen says the negotiations for raises have been a long time coming.

C. Petley / Leon Co. Schools

Port St. Joe High Schooler Lauren Davis really likes computers. And while she doesn’t quite know yet what she wants to do in that field after high school, she’s pretty sure she’s on the right track. In fact, she just earned an industry certificate in Microsoft Word:

 “I’ve always wanted to do something with computers, and it just seemed like the thing to do," she said.

Local Bank Donates to Leon School's Best and Brightest

Oct 3, 2012
Best and Brightest

Envision Credit Union delivered a $175,000 check to the Best and Brightest scholarship awards program Wednesday.

Now in its eighth year, the Best and Brightest awards recognize academic achievement and community service among high school students.  Leon County Assistant Superintendent Barbara Wills said the program gives more students the opportunity to shine.

 “I think the best thing about this program is that it recognizes students who excel in areas that weren’t recognized before we did this.” Wills said.


By 2015 almost all of the nation’s public school students will be learning the same things when it comes to math and language arts. Florida and more than 40 other states have adopted uniform education standards called the common core. For the first time ever, students across the county will be learning the exact same things at the exact same time.

Leon County School officials are breathing sighs of relief after getting a better-than-expected report card from the state. The Department of Education released school grades for elementary, middle and combination schools. This year’s scores showed a significant drop statewide.

Across Florida, 38 percent of schools saw their grades fall. In Leon County, the number was closer to 30-percent. The Leon County School District’s Scotty Crowe says, this year’s school grades could have been much worse:

State releases last batch of FCAT test results

Jun 5, 2012

The  Florida Department of Education has released the final batch of results for this year's  science, math and reading tests for grades four through eight. And across every grade level and in every subject, students in Leon County performed higher than the state average.

" We’re pleased in the sense that generally we did better than we expected to do, and we did better than the state, but you know, you always want to do better,” said Paul Felsch, who heads the Leon County School District's Assessment Division.

Leon County Students scored higher than the state average on this year’s high school FCAT Reading test, but the results show there’s still a long way to go. About 60-percent of the district’s 10th graders and 57-percent of its 9th graders are reading on grade level. Lynn Hatter reports several high schools saw double-digit improvement on the reading test.

The Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce “Improvements Review Team” is getting behind a campaign by Leon County Schools to extend a half-cent sales tax set to expire in November.  Chairman Jim Murdaugh, said it’s clear the schools need the tax.

“The $621-million that they’re asking for to cover the basic needs of the school system are in fact real, they’re valid and absent those dollars they will have no financial means to meet those needs," Murdaugh said.

The Leon County School District wants taxpayers to renew a half-cent sales tax come November. The money goes to support local school building and maintenance projects. Over the last few years, most of the money the county has used to fix up schools has come from that tax—as state support has dwindled. And as Lynn Hatter, a group of community members are now touring the county’s schools to assess the need for the tax—and to make the case to taxpayers for renewing it.

Florida education officials have released the state high school grades nearly six months after elementary and middle school grades were announced. Lynn Hatter reports Leon County is on the state’s honor roll list for the ninth year in a row.

Both Chiles and SAIL are “A” schools according to the state, with Leon, Lincoln and Rickards earning B’s. Godby saw its school grade drop down a letter grade to a C this year.

Tallahassee, FL – Two Leon County parents are being charged with not requiring their children to go to school. And not just public school, any school. The parents say they home school their children, but the charges against them tell a different story, and reveal the pitfalls of a particular brand of school choice that's a lot less regulated than all the others.