Serving more than 27,000 students in 48 schools and centers, Alachua County Public Schools play a large part in the Gainesville and surrounding communities. To recognize this importance September was declared Public School Awareness Month in Alachua County. It was created “to remind every person and business that it is the public’s duty to protect and support our system of public schools,” as the proclamation states.
The events surrounding the month are supported by a collaboration between the Alachua County Council of PTA’s (ACCPTA), The League of Women Voters, the Education College Council, and the Education Foundation of Alachua County.
The district includes 31 elementary schools, 9 middle schools, 8 high schools, two special education centers, an early childhood center, a family services center and an environmental education center (Camp Crystal Lake). There are approximately 4,000 employees of Alachua County Public Schools with about half of them being teachers.
“These are trying times for public education as they are being funded less each year,” said Pam Korithoski, President of the ACCPTA. “The benefits of public school are that every child has the opportunity to a free quality education. It brings the community together and makes a community stronger having educated children contributing to society.”
The ACCPTA advocates for the needs of Alachua County’s children and schools. Alachua County has a long tradition of joining together in advocacy, and the ACC PTA was re-chartered in 2016 to continue bringing the diverse community together.
There are several events planned to celebrate Alachua County Public School Month. On September 11, a viewing of the movie, Backpack Full of Cash, will be aired at the Reitz Union at 6:30 p.m. Narrated by Matt Damon, this feature-length documentary explores the growing privatization of public schools and the resulting impact on America’s most vulnerable children. It is free and open to the public.
On September 22, from 9:30 am to 11:30 am, a speaker’s forum, “Making our Schools Everyone’s Priority” will be held at Gainesville High School and is co-sponsored by Alachua County Public Schools. The forum will explore the state of public school facilities and safety for our students, as well as moving forward with equity and mental health in our schools.
In addition, the Education Foundation is planning a fundraiser on September 25 at Napalatano’s Restaurant. There will be two dinner times where special guests will serve guests. Finally, a Red for Ed Campaign to support teachers is being planned. More details are forthcoming and can be found at www.acpublicschoolsawareness.org. Those wishing to host an event during Public Schools Awareness Month and advertise on the calendar can e-mail Korithoski at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (352) 443-0888.
“It is important to celebrate public school awareness month because we need to raise awareness of the wonderful changes for the better are happening in our schools here in Alachua County. We are piloting two Collaborative Teaching Classrooms in two of our middle schools,” Korithoski said. “The school district is also introducing the AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) program in our middle schools to get more kids on the right track to graduate. We have an amazing arts and music program.”
Five of the district’s six traditional high schools were ranked on The Washington Post‘s 2015 High School Challenge Index, placing them among the top high schools in the nation. Alachua County schools have the highest percentage of high achieving students in the state, winning in sports and academics.
By Tracy Wright