By John Shipley Junior
Palatka Daily News
Putnam County School District officials announced Tuesday the awarding of a major grant to further develop the Jobs for Florida Graduates program in the district.
“I am very proud to announce that the Putnam County School District was recently awarded a continuation of the Jobs for Florida Graduates grant in the amount of $270,000,” Superintendent Rick Surrency said at Tuesday’s district board meeting.
Jobs for Florida Graduates is a privately funded job and life skills program administered in high schools throughout the state. Putnam County High Schools have participated for the last two years, and the program is available at Palatka, Interlachen and Crescent City high schools.
The program has been a rousing success in the county since its implementation, Surrency said. He credited it with playing a big role in improving the district’s graduation rates, which have increased by 30 percent since 2015.
As a part of the program, three 50-student classes are held at participating schools. In these classes, students learn how to develop professional portfolios, establish credit and how to ensure they meet requirements to graduate. The $270,000 grant goes toward funding teachers for these classes.
“Those teachers are on top of those kids. They are on top of them to make sure they don’t fall through the cracks,” Surrency said. “And that is why we are doing so well. Those people are making sure they are really engaging.” The grant was written and applied for through the district’s Federal Program’s office, which Surrency said has been a key piece to the district’s success over the last several years.
“In a small district with limited resources, it is absolutely essential that we are able to reach out and get grants,” he said.
Melissa Coleman is the district’s director of Federal Programs and Instructional Acceleration. She said the grants and the program have been positive for the district because each matches the needs of the district, such as the need for more personnel.
“We initially applied for the grant two years ago to help address our graduation rate and some of the gaps we saw in services for students,” Coleman said. “It is nice that we found a program that is really successful at helping the students and helping the staff at really exceeding and helping fulfill our district goals.”
The next goal for the program in the district is to expand the program to area middle schools so students can get assistance even sooner in their education journey, Surrency explained.
“We will have that transition, and we will be able to target those students and help them be successful in 9th grade, where kids are really vulnerable,” Surrency said.