Q & A with St. Johns County School Board Member, District 4, Kelly Barrera

Q: St. Johns County continues to grow. Does the school district have plans for additional schools beyond the recently announced new High School HHH and K-8 School MM?
A: At our meeting in November, the school board approved our latest five year plan for facilities. In addition to High School HHH and K-8 School MM, we are planning for another K-8 and another high school, in addition to two school expansions, one at Liberty Pines Academy and one at South Woods. The locations of these new schools hasn’t been determined yet. 

Q: When do you expect zoning conversations to start for High School HHH and K-8 School MM?
A: For the new high school, we will start discussing zoning in just a few months, in the winter of 2020. It’s important to start high school zoning early to start fostering school community and the high school’s culture and traditions. This new school will provide relief for Nease and Bartram Trail high schools. Zoning discussions will begin later for K-8 School MM, in winter 2021. I like to refer people to the school district website for updates and new information about the new schools. For security reasons, there won’t be floor plans posted, but you can still get an idea of what the schools will look like from the renderings.

Q: Do you have an update to share on teacher contracts?
A: We were able to increase beginning teacher pay to $39,000. Our substitute teacher pay has been increased to $15 per hour, the first increase in a number of years. Hopefully we can attract more subs. The position requires an associates’ degree and there is training involved. As we continue to grow, we continue to need more subs. Also, in an effort to attract more bus drivers, we will increase the signing bonus to $3,000 if the applicant already has their commercial driver’s license.

Q: Do you have anything else to share with District 4?
A: I’d like to recognize the Teachers and Rookie Teachers of the Year candidates who were just announced. From northeast St. Johns County schools, I’d like to congratulate Erika Carpenter and Kierstyn Barber from Landrum Middle School; Lucy Ninko and Jessica Sundstrom from Nease High School; Jill Sheen and Kaleigh Kessler from Ocean Palms; Kate Dowdie and Margo Rust from Palencia Elementary; Julie Durden and Nicole Krejci from Palm Valley Academy; Jason Nettle from Ponte Vedra High School; Lori Gallaher and Alison Dahl from PVPV Rawlings; and Aletha Dresback from Valley Ridge Academy. (Not all schools named Rookie Teachers of the Year.)

Also, to benefit our school district’s 5,000 employees, there will be a mental health counselor added to our employee wellness centers.

Finally, I’d like to wish everyone a wonderful holiday season. I hope everyone enjoys their winter break and returns rested after the New Year.

Q: How can our readers contact you?
A: They can email me at kelly.barrera@stjohns.k12.fl.us or call me at (904) 547-7510.