Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Schools Planning for Bonus Clay Elementaries Earn State Windfall

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Schools Planning for Bonus Clay Elementaries Earn State Windfall

Article excerpt

At Lakeside Elementary, Principal Julie Badger, her students and faculty were so busy being pleased at the school's improvement in the state's grading system that they failed to consider one of the perks.

Money.

Lakeside is one of 12 elementary schools in Clay County and almost 1,000 across the state that will receive state bonuses this month for maintaining the highest grade or improving their grades. For its jump from a C to a B, Lakeside will get a windfall of $66,204.

"We had been so excited about the progress we did make, I honestly couldn't think about the bonus," Badger said. As a result, when a letter recently arrived from Gov. Jeb Bush informing her of the reward, she said she was "just blown away."

"We still have a way to go, but this will help us in striving to that goal [of an A grade]," she said.

All Florida public schools are graded on a scale of A through F, based largely on student performance on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, or FCAT. Statewide, about $80 million will be distributed to 997 schools, 77 of them in North Florida.

In Clay County, the only schools to qualify were elementaries -- Clay Hill, Doctors Inlet, Fleming Island, Lake Asbury, Lakeside, Keystone Heights, Middleburg, Montclair, Orange Park, Paterson, Ridgeview and Tynes -- and they will receive about $959,000. The bonuses, which are about $100 per student, ranged from $52,750 for Orange Park to $135,682 for Fleming Island.

Some Clay schools plan to hold mini-celebrations when their checks actually arrive.

"As soon as the grades came in [in the summer], we knew we were getting something . . . but we didn't know how much," said Sandy Lester, principal of Fleming Island, which this year held on to the A it received last year. "Then I got that lovely letter from the governor with the exact amount. …

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