ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Governor Ron DeSantis made a stop at Lakewood Elementary Wednesday morning to hand out some of the first of the $1,000 teacher bonuses and celebrate a major milestone at the school.
Superintendent Dr. Mike Grego said the state support allowed Pinellas County Schools to give out $1,000 bonuses to all of their employees.
It’s been a tough year and a half for teachers and students.
“I did not like the divide that we had,” said Lynn Price, a teacher at Lakewood Elementary.
Simultaneous teaching was just another barrier to tackle at a school that was already underperforming.
“If you get mad at me because I’m pushing you to do something that’s hard, you shut off your screen,” said Price.
As of 2019, Lakewood Elementary was one of the lowest-performing public elementary schools in the state. But even during a pandemic, educators at the school were able to turn things around.
“Lakewood Elementary went from an F grade in 2019, the last year we issued school grades, to earning an A in 2021,” said Governor Ron DeSantis.
A big accomplishment for both teachers and students at the school.
“We knew we were projected to be a high B going into FSA this year, so to hear we pulled the A, I think we were both numb,” said Stephanie Woodford, Area Superintendent for Pinellas Schools and former principal at Lakewood Elementary.
It's a school where 30 percent of the kids are in foster care or homeless, and the majority of them started the 2020 school year from home.
“We had over 60 or 70 percent of our students at home when we started,” said Woodford.
But the administrators reached out to parents to make them feel comfortable sending their kids back to school.
“We worked with each one of their plans to make sure that when they came on campus that we were taking care of, you know, if they needed to have a change of clothes, if they needed to be separate from the students in the classroom,” said Renee Nellenback, Principal at Lakewood Elementary.
And now they're starting the new school year off on a high note.
“30 years in education and this is a highlight of my career," said Woodford.
Governor Ron DeSantis also handed out some of the first of the $1,000 teacher bonuses in person at Lakewood Elementary School and announced the state has started sending some of them out.
In total, he says the state is sending $215 million to around 175,000 full-time teachers and 3,600 principals.
The governor emphasized the importance of having children be able to learn in person at school and thanked the teachers who were helping make that possible.
“The alternative, of them not being able to access in-person learning, I think we’ve seen throughout other parts of the country, would’ve just been totally catastrophic. It would’ve dug us in such a hole, I think a lot of kids would’ve just totally fallen off the radar. It would’ve had a disproportionate effect on low-income and working class families," said Governor DeSantis.