Teacher test-training offered in Moore Haven

MOORE HAVEN — The legwork that Glades County Schools Superintendent Scott Bass has been doing in trying to set up job training programs at the county’s Regional Training Facility in Moore Haven is beginning to pay off, and the first program — aimed at assisting teachers and school districts — will begin in a few weeks.

Superintendent Bass announced Monday, Aug. 20, that a university in Fort Myers has committed to a test-preparation tutoring program in September for teachers in the region who need help in passing the state’s tests administered for certification. The Florida Department of Education’s general knowledge and subject area tests for teachers were rewritten in 2015, setting the bar that they must meet to become certified higher than it had been. This has resulted in difficulties for school districts statewide in keeping their teacher corps at full strength.

“It does not mean that teachers aren’t intelligent,” he explained, “but when you have an elementary teacher and they’re having to do trigonometry problems on their test, it’s difficult. So everyone across the state is seeing teachers having difficulty in passing their general knowledge test.

“We’ve partnered with FGCU (Florida Gulf Coast University) to address the teacher shortage and also getting teachers certified. And some of that is taking place at the training center, and we’ve actually also opened it up,” Mr. Bass said. He explained that FGCU had agreed to provide instruction for 25 enrollees for what essentially will be a crash course for test preparation on two Saturdays in September.

With 19 in Glades County already having signed up, “we’ve got six spots left, so we’re opening it up to other school districts and teachers. We’ve extended this out to Okeechobee, Highlands and Hendry (counties). FGCU is sinking a bunch of money into this,” Mr. Bass said.

But any teachers, or districts in the region with interested instructors, who are able to come to Moore Haven and might want those spots need to act soon to get in on the first session, he added. The staff member to contact is Andi Canaday, director of secondary academic services, at 863-946-0202, extension 127, or by email at andi.canaday@gladesschools.org.

Talks on other classes ongoing

Mr. Bass was already in talks with FGCU representatives about establishing other programs that would be offered at the Glades County Regional Training Facility (GCRTF), so he reached out to them regarding the teacher issue and they were eager to help.

This will be the first taste of new educational offerings at GCRTF. “Starting in January, FGCU will be offering their teacher immersion program classes, which are graduate-level classes of which eight can be used toward a master’s degree in education. And FGCU is offering that to our participants in this program at a 50 percent tuition discount, which is huge, more than even their employees get on their courses,” said Mr. Bass.

“The majority of the classes will be online; however, there will be some face-to-face meeting and those will take place here in Moore Haven at the training center,” he explained. “So FGCU is really interested in being more of a partner to our area than they have been in the past, and this is one of the first steps that they’re taking, and we’re taking it with them.”

Another step is an application FGCU is working on to be submitted for state grant money to finance teacher training. “This is just FGCU taking the initiative to help their rural partners. The grant, that is roughly $3 million, would also go to enhance education and help teachers in rural areas moving forward. If they get the grant, then I would expect FGCU to potentially make something permanent moving forward at the training center,” Mr. Bass said.

iTech branch campus possible

In addition, arrangements are being made to establish what may amount to a branch campus of Immokalee Technical College, known as iTech, at the GCRTF, beginning with a set of vocational education courses for both high school students and interested adults.

The school districts of Okeechobee, Hendry, Highlands and Collier counties, along with county officials from Glades and Hendry, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation and CareerSource all have been involved in these talks, Mr. Bass said.

At a meeting Aug. 3, he said, “basically what we decided there, and which everybody was for, is Immokalee iTech coming to the regional training center as a branch campus, and any high school in any of those school districts could dual-enroll at the iTech center in Moore Haven. We want to make that an option available to high school students.

“But our main goal,” he continued, “is looking at educating the out-of-school individual who is looking for a trade or something to better themselves.”

Around $5 million will be sought from the Job Growth Grant Fund established a couple of years ago through the Department of Economic Opportunity. Mr. Bass said he met recently with Gov. Rick Scott in Moore Haven, adding: “I feel like with so many school districts and different counties involved, this has got a really good chance of being funded.

“This could be a really good economic positive swing for Glades County and the region,” Mr. Bass concluded.

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