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Grades up at Lee schools; district earns a ‘B’

By Staff | Jun 29, 2017

The School Distict of Lee County saw overall improvement for the 2016-17 school year, according to preliminary grades released Thursday by the Florida Department of Education.

Two West Zone schools, Caloosa and Bayshore elementaries, saw their efforts improve by two letter grades, from a ‘C’ to an ‘A.’

According to the results, 52 percent of Lee County public schools earned an “A” or “B” grade, up from 46 percent last year and much closer to the statewide average of 57 percent.

While the district maintained its “B” grade for a third straight year, it increased its overall percentage of total points from 54 to 57, moving the district closer to its goal of an “A” grade.

According to the school district, this moves Lee County up five notches from 35th in the state overall to 30th.

There are 67 county districts in the state.

“I am proud of the hard work of our teachers, administrators and district staff over the last year. While we know our schools are much more than a grade, this data shows we are moving in the right direction,” said Lee County Schools Superintendent Dr. Greg Adkins in a prepared statement.

This year no Lee County schools received an “F” grade, and nearly 30 percent of schools in Lee County improved their grades. James Stephens International Academy in Fort Myers raised its grade from an “F” to a “B” in one year.

Two area schools also showed significant improvement. Bayshore Elementary in North Fort Myers went from a “C” to an “A” as did Caloosa Elementary in Cape Coral.

Shelley Markgraf, Caloosa Elementary principal, said in an e-mail while on vacation that the school restructured things and, through math and reading coaches, worked daily with the lowest achievers.

“My staff met regularly to discuss student progress and then changes were made accordingly each quarter. It was truly a team effort by everyone on the Caloosa staff. We are thrilled beyond measure to bring the ‘A’ back to Caloosa. We consider ourselves a staff that believes in quality and excellence and our goal this year was to bring back the letter grade that correlated to what we believe,” Markgraf said in an e-mail.

At Bayshore, principal Lynn Herrell said a young staff that needed some seasoning resulted in a temporary stumble last year. But through working together and experience, the school brought things back up quickly.

“We changed up the way we departmentalized the fourth and fifth grade to make sure we could give each student exactly what they needed,” Harrell said. “It just came together. We spent extra time, mentored kids, tutored after school, but it was about our teachers loving the kids.”

Bayshore also became a “Whole Brain Teaching” school to engage kids and saw many accomplishments, such as Mariah Washington winning the Golden Apple, four others being named High Impact teachers, two others named Teachers of the Year and the school named “Do the Right Thing” school of the year.

Many schools which have demonstrated excellence continued to do so. All schools in Cape Coral and North Fort Myers got at least a “C” grade.

Diplomat Elementary earned an “A” for the 17th straight year and Trafalgar Middle did the same for the 12th. Trafalgar Elementary also got an “A,” as it has every year it’s been in existence.

Diplomat Elementary principal Mara Vertrees said much of their success has to do with the stability of the staff and administration.

“We don’t have a lot of people come and go. The previous principal put in place a lot of things regarding kindergarten, first and second grade,” Vertress said. “We’re a well-knit team here and it permeates everything. We put all our ideas together to grow and develop in the way we can always do what’s best.”

Challenger, both Gulf Middle (for the 15th time in 16 years) and Elementary, and Oasis Middle also earned “A” grades.

Beside Bayshore, no North Fort Myers Schools earned an “A.” North Fort Myers High and North Fort Myers Academy for the Arts each earned a “B.”