Plaques, Pink Slips and Piscine Pursuits (Plus a Pin for Paula) at School Board Meeting

Besides honoring two young Dade Countians who saved a life at Cloudland Canyon recently (see previous story), the Dade County Board of Education distributed plaques, certificates and awards to too many young people to name from all the system schools who had excelled this year both at athletics and at oratory.

Some, like the youthful lifesavers referenced above, were unable to attend because they were busy pursuing the sports for which, in many cases, they were honored. But many did show up to collect their prizes, and so did their families, so that it was standing room only for the first part of the March 20 meeting.

Superintendent of Schools Jan Harris applauded the families of the students as well as the award winners themselves. "You've been swimming in a pretty good gene pool," she told the students.

Kudos were also on tap for system bookkeeper Paula Stallings (right), who got a pin and a hug from Dr. Harris for having earned the system a perfect audit. Dr. Harris in addition recognized Chris Chance for having been named Educator of the Year at the Dade Chamber of Commerce banquet over the weekend and Amanda Clark and Dade First for having won the Chamber's Best Nonprofit title.

Dr. Harris introduced to the board certified public accountant Russell Raney, who will replace Doug Eza as the school system's numbers man. Eza, whose name may be familar as the fiscal advisor behind the Dade Board of Education's 2012 defunding of the Dade County Library, a blow from which the library has yet to recover, is retiring.

So is Dade Elementary School counselor Tinena Bice, the board announced after its usual post-regular-meeting executive, or closed-door, session. After that session, the board also announced another resignation: Jennifer Reese (right), assistant principal at DCHS, has become the latest casualty in the recent rather dramatic reshuffling of Dade school administration. "Now Mr. Fahrney will have two assistant principals to hire for next year," said Dr. Harris.

She explained that the other DCHS assistant, Dr. James Cantrell, had earlier retired and then come back half-time this year. Now he, too, will be replaced. James Fahrney, currently the principal of Davis Elementary, will become the principal of the high school for the next school year, swapping places with Josh Ingle, who will leave DCHS and lead Davis. The departure of Dade Middle School principal Jamison Griffin was announced last week, though no successor has been discussed.

Other personnel announcements were the hiring of substitute teachers Amberlee Burrow, Logan Cloud, Shannon Ricker and Samantha Saw.

Dr. Harris mentioned incidentally that her office had received 65 applicants for Dr. Cantrell's job, which she said was a record.

Russell Raney, the aforementioned new school system financial advisor, gave a brief update about the fiscal health of the system: He said revenues are higher and expenditures lower than projected, a good thing, but that increased costs for support staff health insurance and retirement plans, plus a scheduled raise in their pay, hit the schools hard because unlike teachers' salaries these items are not paid for by the state. He said under the leadership of Dr. Harris operating reserves had increased and that going forward she was committed to balancing the budget.

Other highlights: For those old enough to remember the origin of the term "playing hooky," it may seem odd for a school to have something called a "fishing team," but the times they are a-changing and it has come to pass: Dade High's new official fishing team will be coached by Al Barton.

​​Dr. Harris also displayed a plaque dedicating a new bronze statue outside the Board of Education office, and directed attendees' attention to the work. The statue was donated to the system, she said.

Otherwise, the board approved routine items it had discussed at its work session last week, including an approval of makeup days for this school year. For the kids, there won't be any, though teachers do have some time to make up.

The next regular meeting of the Dade Board of Education is scheduled for 6 p.m. on April 17 at its office in front of the high school on Highway 136 East.

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