Lee County thanks, encourages staff

Photo by Casey Dixon

Photo by Casey Dixon

LEESBURG -- After having its high school miss the federally mandated Adequate Yearly Progress for the first time in six years, Lee County School System Superintendent Lawrence Walters said the district will offer night school classes to struggling students.

Walters made his comments during the annual district kickoff pep rally held in Lee County High School's auditorium Monday morning.

"We will be offering night school for students behind at the middle and the high school, and at the Transitional Learning (Center)," Walters told the crowd of more than 300 staff members representing the district's institutions. "This is our hope to meet AYP for graduation rate."

Walters also noted earlier that Lee County Middle will have an enrollment of "right near" 1,600 students at the three-grade school. He said that the district recently bought 40 acres at Robert B. Lee Drive and Lovers Lane to house the new middle school.

With a special-purpose, local-option sales tax generating an average of $280,000-$300,000 a month in Lee County, Walters said the school system also has plans for a new elementary school, installing a new roof on Kinchafoonee Primary, renovating the high school by enlarging the cafeteria and media center, and resurfacing the parking lot at the Ninth Grade Campus.

"We continue to grow," he said of the district's projected 6,200-student enrollment. "It's going to be a busy year. I'm excited and I hope you are, too. We need to see our students as individuals not as numbers. ... Have a great year."

Lee Board of Education member Louis Hatcher said the kickoff event was a great way to start the school year, which begins Friday for students.

"I always like to get together to recognize all the teachers," Hatcher said.

Board Chair Sylvia Vann started off the program by also noting the staff's quality.

"(Teaching) is not easy, but the strength of our system is our staff," she said. "We salute you and thank you."

The wide range of programs offered by the district and the successes of those were highlighted during event. After Lee County High's Navy JROTC had its presentation of colors and the school band played the national anthem, Lee County Middle rising seventh-grader Caitlin Gutierrez dazzled the crowd.

Caitlin covered Carrie Underwood's "So Small." Her strong performance caused the crowed to give the smiling Caitlin a standing ovation. She also ended the hour program by singing Martina McBride's "Ride."

"I got nervous at the beginning, but I've sung in front of bigger crowds," said Caitlin, who has performed at churches and is working on recording an CD.

The Lee County Primary School Players provided laughs for the audience with its "First Day of Kindergarten" skit performed by staff members. The fictional students ranged from a bratty girl who couldn't stop snacking to one who was allergic to "Crayolas, pencil lead and corn dogs."

The teacher was frequently asking parents as they dropped off their children if they could be her class mom, but all were too busy or overextended.

After showing its acting abilities, Lee County Primary School also demonstrated its singing ability as its singers sang "With This Light (We Touch Tomorrow, Today)."

Walters followed by acknowledging the 48 new certified teachers and counselors who were new to the school system this year. He also recognized new administrators -- Kinchafoonee Primary Principal Trinia Muse, its Assistant Principal Vince Grace and Twin Oaks Elementary Assistant Principal Katie Peppers.