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Guest Commentary | What a year it has been!

By SAM FISHER - School Board vice chair | Nov 21, 2023

Sam Fisher

I have just completed my first year as a school board member and collectively one year together for this school board. Reflecting on the past 12 months, we have confronted challenges from Hurricane Ian, managed rapid growth, and navigated daily challenges. Previously, I discussed our first 100 days together. Now, I present to you a recap of the year and a look ahead to the future.

Safety & Security

Ensuring the security of all is a top priority for both the Board and the District.

• Open Gate Technology: Smart weapons detectors, designed for minimal intrusion, have been installed in schools, allowing students and staff to move through entrances seamlessly without delays.

• Guardian Program: Thanks to Sheriff Carmine Marceno and the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, we have implemented the Guardian Program together. Guardians are armed non- instructional staff that are utilized as force multipliers to solely stop armed assailants. It’s a highly selective program that requires over 170 hours of rigorous training by law enforcement.

• Students Tracking on Buses: The District has implemented a system to keep track of students via ID when they get on and off the bus.

Teachers & Staff

Teachers and staff are the backbone of our schools, thus it’s important they are supported and valued.

• Compensation: The Board has agreed to a new contract for staff and teachers with significant increases to help retention. Starting teacher salary is now at $50,000 and there is a focus on ensuring our veteran teachers (5 years and up) are valued for their hard work and dedication.

• Substitutes: The District has partnered with Kelly Services to address the significant need for guest teachers.

Parents

As a parent of children in the District, I am all too familiar with the challenges we face.

• Return to Schools: A concerted effort is under way to welcome parents and families back to schools, as student success grows with the relationship between our families and our schools. So please come in for activities, conferences, and to volunteer!

• New Policies: As part of our comprehensive board policy overhaul, there is a dedicated focus on ensuring that parents’ rights and choices serve as a cornerstone in the district.

School Reconstruction

A year after the hurricane’s devastation, I am excited to share some great news.

• Fort Myers Beach Elementary: Undergoing a substantial renovation, it is set to reopen in December.

• Hector A. Cafferata Jr. Elementary: Reconstruction will start at a new location in Northwest Cape Coral, with plans to expand from a K-5 to a K-8 facility. The anticipated opening date is 2025. The existing Hector land may be repurposed to facilitate the expansion of the adjacent Cape Coral Technical College.

• Major Repairs: Substantial progress has been made in completing repairs, particularly at heavily impacted schools such as Lexington Middle School.

Transparency

Transparency and public trust are paramount for any public organization.

• Lee County Clerk: The Board has agreed to have the Clerk perform an audit consultation of the District’s audit functions at no additional cost.

• Internal Auditor: The Board has decided to hire a separate internal auditor that will improve compliance and further increase transparency.

Year two brings several initiatives such as a continued emphasis on student achievement, a focus on Middle School Proximity, legislative attention towards deregulation, and additional plans for Career and Technical Education. We are looking forward to another great year!

Sam Fisher is the School Board vice chair. He represents District 1, which includes Cape Coral.