Bay County Schools Celebrate Excellence in Education


Husfelt 2020By Bill Husfelt, Superintendent, Bay District Schools

While we’re busy spending time with loved ones during the holidays, we’re also in the middle of our annual celebration of our more than 3,000 employees through our Excellence in Education Awards.

Annually, our schools nominate one employee to represent them as Teacher of the Year and one to be their Support Employee of the Year. This year, thanks to the generosity of the Bay Education Foundation, we’ve added a new category and we’re now also recognizing one Rookie Teacher of the Year from each school.

It speaks volumes for schools at the beach that TWO of our Top Five Finalists for Teacher of the Year are from beach schools (Stephanie Asselin at Hutchison Beach Elementary and Kelley Hodges at Patronis Elementary). We also recently recognized our Top Five Support Employees of the Year and one of those finalists is also from Patronis Elementary (Karen Estes). We also have a Top Five Finalist for Rookie of the Year from J.R. Arnold High School (Jessica Green). Clearly excellence is something our schools at the beach take seriously!
We also want to share some of the innovations that are taking place at our beach schools.
J.R. Arnold High School recently started a “Power Hour” which gives students an extended lunchtime once a week for tutoring, club activities and meeting with college and military recruiters. Power Hour was such a success that Arnold expanded it to twice a week and other schools are considering replicating this approach.

Arnold also recently partnered with Chartwells to reopen the “C Store” which is an on-campus convenience store. Unlike in the past, however, NONE of the items can be purchased with money, they can only be bought with good behavior tokens that are handed out by faculty and staff members in recognition of good citizenship. This concept is also a success and other schools are looking into their own version of the store.

The Breakfast Point neighborhood continues to expand and so the school also continues to grow. I’m not sure if you saw the awesome photos of their recent Vocabulary Parade but students dressed up as their favorite words and paraded around campus. It’s always a great event and the level of parental participation is commendable. Our beach parents are so very supportive of our schools and their involvement is a key component of the success of our students and our schools.

Arnold 2 Img 4803Surfside Middle School continues to accomplish great things with their students as well. I’m sure you saw the great media coverage of the Bay Days from Surfside Middle School. Students and teachers took their classroom learning outside as they completed hands-on science activities in St. Andrew Bay over a series of days. Even more recently, their Student Government Association partnered with the Panama City Beach Police Department and collected enough food to make 36 Thanksgiving baskets for beach families in need.

West Bay Elementary continues their focus on mental health and that work is aided by a certified therapy dog, Murphy, who is available on campus to comfort students who are struggling. This is just another example of the innovative approaches to student learning being taken on the beach.

And our newest school, A. Gary Walsingham Academy, is also continuing to expand. Construction crews are still finishing the second floor but we plan to have a community open house in late February so everyone can walk through the buildings.

I don’t have to tell you that the growth at the beach is phenomenal and we’re planning to be ready for the next wave of construction. We’re looking at available land on the West End right now with an eye towards building another school in that area in the future and we continue to monitor the housing statistics and new neighborhoods being planned throughout our community.

Thank you for everything you do to support our students and our schools.
Stay safe and God bless.