School board hires firm to help Oakridge Elementary

Assistant Superintendent Gillian Gregory presents board members with a recommendation for Oakridge Elementary School. 
Photo Submitted by Sherneka Streater.

Leon County School Board members grappled during their Tuesday meeting with a potential solution to the ongoing problems Oakridge Elementary School is facing.

It’s one of several schools in Leon County facing academic challenges. Oakridge has raised increasing concerns with state school board officials due to its poor academic performance for the past three years, receiving a D grade each year.

The school “could possibly be shut down or turned over to a charter program,” Superintendent Rocky Hanna said.

Gillian Gregory, assistant superintendent, recommended the district hire an external entity to improve the school’s grade.

Gregory suggested that the district use the services of Turnaround Solutions. This one-year contract is expected to improve the school by using support services to improve student success.

If Oakridge obtains a letter grade C or better for the 2018-2019 school year, Turnaround will receive $50,000 and provide the school with resources to help maintain or improve the grade. However, if the school receives a D or F, Turnaround will receive $310,000 and implement its own English, math and science programs in the school.  “Turnaround Solutions will house two full-time staff members at the school for the length of the contract,” said Gregory.

Due to poor test scores, many teachers at the elementary school are facing possible termination. “I’m sick of talking about it,” Hanna said.

Although this initiative is said to be just what Oakridge needs to get back on track, some of the 60 of so people at the meeting were not in favor of this contract.

Board member Alva Striplin said she did not like what the contract could mean for Oakridge.

“I don’t understand why we have to bring outside help to do the same thing our teachers are already doing,” Striplin said. “I believe there is no outside entity that could improve the school better than [principal] Dr. Smith,” she added. Of the five board members, Striplin showed the most frustration over hiring Turnaround Solutions to “fix” the school’s academic problems.

“It’s almost like we’re being forced to do this,” said board member Rosanne Woods. Like Striplin, she voiced concern that administrators wanted to spend $50,000 to try to save Oakridge. “This is too much pressure on our children — test grades have brought much damage to schools,” Woods said.

Board members eventually voted unanimously to approve the contract with Turnaround. Hanna said that they would try to make the best out of a bad situation.