The 3-1 vote to fire Abbey Cooke, for a dozen year a highly rated teacher and 2017 Teacher of the Year at Belle Terre Elementary, sent a chilling message to those who would challenge the board, or those who land on any board member’s hostile radar: the slightest misstep can and will be used against them.
Belle Terre Elementary
The percentage of Flagler County 3rd graders achieving a reading level of 3 (out of 5) or above–that is, reading at a satisfactory level–fell to 58 percent, the lowest level in at least seven years of comparable testing results, and down from last year’s 59 percent. Scores had peaked at 69 percent in 2017 and 68 percent in 2019, the year before the pandemic.
An extended power outage at Belle Terre Elementary led the school district to end the school day early there and request that car-rider pick-up their children starting at 12:30 p.m. All children who cannot be picked up will be supervised until dismissal time, or through the period usually reserved for extended day, which has also been cancelled.
Makenna’s story illustrates the pernicious tenacity of a disease that upends, separates and traumatizes families, cuts off income, creates unspeakable loneliness even for those not hospitalized, and leaves its casualties fuming at a community’s refusal to embrace–beyond thoughts and prayers–the small, effortless measures that could prevent much of the harm to most.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s investigation of former Belle Terre Elementary Principal Terence Culver found financial and ethical problems with his running of the school’s PTO but but nothing criminal to pursue, and closed its investigation.
The three new principals’ appointments dovetail two other, less visible but influential postings at the district office and reflect the superintendent’s pronounced nod to diversity, a year after Lee sued the district, charging discrimination.
Just 59 percent of third graders in Flagler County scored a satisfactory level 3 or better on the Florida Standards Assessment in reading last schoolyear, a nine-point drop from the last time the tests were administered, but statewide students learning remote did slightly better than those learning at school.
Belle Terre Elementary was placed under a “Code Blue” alert early this morning when a parent found a note in the parent’s child’s backpack mentioning a bomb. The parent found the note at the child’s home.
Neither moves on the part of Superintendent Cathy Mittelstadt are a surprise, though they reinforce what the appointments do signal: that the superintendent, herself in the district less than half a year, is comfortable and trusting of an administrative staff that two previous superintendents cultivated for leadership positions. The district’s bench, in other words, is not thin.
Fewer than half the district’s students took seats in actual classrooms and 10,000 attended one of Flagler schools’ three options overall, a 23 percent decline from the district’s usual enrollment. If there was a measure of excitement about being back, there was also apprehension, uncertainty, many unanswered questions.