10 county schools win state FCAT awards
The next step may be tricky as school advisory groups decide how to split the bonus under strict state guidelines.
By EDDY RAMIREZ
Published September 10, 2005
INVERNESS - Citrus schools will receive $176,000 more than last year for their performance on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.
This week, school principals learned about the pot of money that's coming their way. In all, Citrus schools will receive $797,725 under Gov. Jeb Bush's A-plus School Recognition Program.
The state awards money to schools that earn an A on the FCAT or that improve a letter grade from the previous year. Each recognized school receives $100 for each student based on the previous year enrollment.
This year, 10 Citrus schools were awarded money. Lecanto High raked in the most, $155,500, after the school went from a C to a B this year.
Homosassa Elementary, which enrolls just over 300 students, receives the smallest pot of money compared to other schools. But the school is also one of the district's highest achievers, earning six straight A's since it received a D in 1999.
The state has strict rules for how schools can spend the money. Schools can use the money for schoolwide improvements, salaries, one-time cash bonuses for teachers or any combination of the three.
The money will be available for the schools' use after they form plans of how they want to spend it.
In 2004, a state auditor criticized the way the Citrus school system spent more than $50,000 in recognition money. Among the criticized expenditures: an outdoor cooker, nearly $30,000 worth of student celebrations and rewards at various schools, and student field trips and staff training sessions.
Since then, district administrators have laid out more specific guidelines, sometimes to the disappointment of principals.
"Principals can call us if they have questions," said Sam Hurst, the district's finance director. "But we have made it very clear how they can spend the money."
Hernando Elementary, for example, used to host carnivals with magicians and plenty of food. Carol Mainor, the school's principal, doesn't think the school can do that with the $66,000 it will receive this year.
In the coming weeks, Mainor and the school's advisory council, which includes parents, will discuss how they want to spend the money. It could be for anything ranging from teacher bonuses, to buying playground equipment or more computers.
A decision must be made jointly by the staff and the advisory council before Nov. 1 or the state divides the money equally among all classroom teachers.
Mainor said she doesn't think the school will have any trouble deciding how to spend the money.
"It's a wonderful gift," Mainor said.
Eddy Ramirez can be reached at email@example.com or 860-73052005.RECOGNITION MONEY FOR SCHOOLS
Schools that earn an A for their FCAT performance or that improve at least one letter grade from the previous year are eligible for school recognition money. This year, 10 schools will receive money.Elementary schools
Pleasant Grove Elementary$72,970
Forest Ridge Elementary*$75,456
Floral City Elementary$42,367
Citrus Springs Elementary*$85,177
Rock Crusher Elementary$74,506
*School that also received money last year.
Florida Department of Education