WALDO – Alachua County School Board Superintendent Owen Roberts paid a visit to Waldo on Monday, Dec. 8 to conduct the third community school board forum since he assumed his position this past summer.
Previous forums had about 60 people in attendance while Waldo’s forum drew about 20 people who gathered in the school’s cafeteria.
The crowd consisted of a mix of parents, teachers, school board members and city commission members. Once again, the group was given the same three questions offered to attendees at the previous meetings: What would you do if you were the new superintendent, how would you get parents more involved and what does the superintendent need to know about this community?
Once again, Roberts addressed the crowd before the forum.
“When you think about Alachua, sometimes people don’t think about Waldo,” Roberts said. “But I want you to know that this superintendent understands clearly that this is about the entire county.”
Because of the smaller number, this time the group was able to go around and introduce themselves before the first question.
Throughout the night, many citizens spoke to the need of the children at the Waldo Community School. Waldo has only one school and it only goes up to the fifth grade. One group discussed the fact that the school is serving children from a broad spectrum of family situations.
One common theme that almost everyone touched on was the closeness of the community. Many groups said that what Waldo lacked in facilities, it made up for in small town feel. One said that the children felt safe and happy.
And although parent involvement could be improved, citizens said that the communication to and from teachers is not a problem at the school and that the teachers were generally well liked and respected.
Principal of Waldo Community School, Holly Burton, said she thinks the forums are beneficial to the community.
“I think it’s important that they see that their input is valued, and that they have an opportunity to express what they think is important,” Burton said.
Burton has been principal for two years and says she really believes in the teachers and the students.
“I think that the staff is extremely talented here and very hard working, and I think that the kids are amazing and I think that [the school] needs a self-esteem lift,” she added.
At the close of the session, Roberts addressed the crowd once more.
“As I listen to your input, I want you to know that I am prepared to consider every recommendation or suggestion made very, very carefully,” he said.
Roberts then spoke a little bit about his “100 days address” he would be giving the following day, assuring the citizens that moves are being made to better the education and lives of the children in the Alachua County community.
He mentioned a few of his plans, which included mobile classrooms out in the community and a new look at language development.
“Children’s achievement is tied to their ability to use language, and that is critical,” Roberts said.
“You should know that this superintendent cares about all of Alachua, not just Gainesville.”
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