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Guest Commentary: Let’s talk education!

By Gwynetta Gittens - | Sep 22, 2021

Gwynetta Gittens

Let’s talk about education in Lee County, especially the East Zone. We are keeping extremely busy at the district these days. Here are a few points to be aware of:

Superintendent search

We are looking for a permanent superintendent. The firm of Ray and Associates was chosen to lead the search. In order to know exactly what characteristics we are looking for, there is currently a survey open to everyone in Lee County. Just go to leeschools.net and it will say Superintendent Search Survey complete it and submit. Please participate so your voice can be heard. I will be discussing the survey and answering questions on Let’s Talk with Gwyn Gittens on Thursday from 7-8 p.m.

Masks

Rules are the same as beginning of the school year. Families may complete an Opt Out form to opt their child out of wearing a mask. We are continuing all other mitigation: e.g.: increased testing availability, including at schools, hiring additional staff to help catch up on the back log of contact tracing and paper work, sanitary protocols, parental awareness, hiring teachers; full-time and subs. It will take everyone to mitigate this issue.

Capital building

At a briefing last week, we were updated on the 5-year and 10-year capital building plan and the update on the use of the half-cent sales tax. I again asked for a breakdown of tax vs. capital funds. I will do a more thorough analysis of this topic in weeks to come, however you can look at my “Let’s Talk “ on Facebook Gwynetta Holloway Gittens or YouTube Gwyn Gittens and you can always leave a comment or question, all are welcome.

My opinion

The 5- and 10-year capital plan for the East Zone is unacceptable, especially when $54 million is being spent on a school with no overcrowding, (102-105% over capacity) with very few portables, in the South Zone. (East Zone is 117%+).

I was told a few months ago “There’s a plan that will allow us to get rid of all the portables in the East Zone!” Obviously, that plan has changed including the much-needed* Technical Center that I have strongly advocated for three years has again moved to the 10-year plan! I asked why the plan completion was 2028… I was told, “That is a mistake, it is 2026.” The need for a technical center is now for the East Zone. People need training for jobs and businesses need workers! Why are most of the LCSD capital plans for “future growth and development” and not current NEED?

Current need? For example the 10-20 portables at each of our middle schools or the fact that a brand new middle school was built in the East Zone this school year and provided no additional seats for middle school students? How did that happen: The 1,450 students at the old LAMS building were shuffled around: 1,370 of them were moved to the new school built for 1,250 students and some were sent to Veterans Park. The old LAMS building is only being occupied in two wings because the portables they were supposed to use are in such need of repair. The current 800+ middle school students at Veterans Park will be moved next year to the “revamped” old LAMS building. The revamping will only add 250 additional middle school seats. Revamped, at this time, means refurbishing 20 portables, and painting flooring and refurbishing the building.

* Note 38% of the students at Fort Myers Tech come from the East Zone, Charlotte and Hendry County.

Be aware of your own community and speak out.

–Gwynetta Gittens, Lee County School Board member, District 5.