As the school year comes to close, it is such fun to celebrate the hard work of our students, faculty, staff, volunteers, community and business partners and school leaders! Significant effort goes into making each school year successful, and we are incredibly fortunate to be a part of a community that values education.
Our mission in the St. Johns County School District is to inspire good character and a passion for lifelong learning in all students, creating educated and caring contributors to the world. It is always exciting to see that mission unfold, as our students cross the graduation stage to begin the next chapter in their journey.
Of course, in a large school district such as ours that serves students from preschool through postsecondary education, there will always be challenges. Yet we continue to maintain a culture of continuous improvement as we seek opportunities for innovation. We know we will not always get every situation right, but we remain committed and focused on our mission — our students.
An example of this is a new partnership our school district’s Early Childhood Services department has formed with First Coast Technical College’s (FCTC) Early Childhood Services post-secondary program. Through this partnership, our youngest students will receive enhanced learning opportunities, as will our future educators.
The FCTC campus has long hosted the Tech Tots PreK childcare program, whereby secondary school students enrolled in the college’s Early Childhood Education program worked with Tech Tots children. Over the past few years, however, the Tech Tots program has experienced declining enrollment. To provide a deeper and richer experience for our secondary students and to better serve the students in our community, the school district added two classrooms: a Head Start class serving students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds and an Exceptional Student Education (ESE) Intensive Support classroom.
As a result, FCTC students now have a hands-on learning laboratory that provides three different environments: Tech Tots for child care, Head Start for community-based education and ESE for children with disabilities and special needs.
Moving forward, there are plans to expand the size and scope of this program. This will include offering after-care hours, parent education classes and on-site family engagement opportunities. Future plans also include increasing programming to provide St. Augustine High School Career Academy students enrolled in the Teaching Academy with the opportunity to engage in authentic and meaningful experiences within the three different types of classroom environments.
In other FCTC news, the college recently hosted an Inaugural Transition Services Fair, with 35 local vendors and agencies that provide services and support to individuals with disabilities. More than 200 people attended the fair, where students and families were able to ask questions and learn about the different programs and available community resources.
In addition to completing the 2022-23 school year and planning for the 2023-24 school year, our school district has completed the accreditation process that occurs every five years. We were pleased with the initial results. This summer, we will take a deep dive into the full report and digest the feedback that was shared in the many stakeholder group sessions. This information will assist us in moving forward with our strategic planning process over the next several months.
I am so appreciative of our students and families, teachers, staff, volunteers, business and community partners and school leaders. While this year has had its challenges, I am grateful for your positive commitment to helping move our schools and community forward. Our focus on inspiring good character and a passion for lifelong learning in our students guides us each day, and I am committed to serving you and making our school district the very best.
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