Parents and students from the STEMM Center middle school in one of Florida’s strongest school districts, Okaloosa County, packed a school board meeting on Monday evening to protest a proposal to end the enrollment of new students in the school. According to the Northwest Florida Daily News,
During a school board meeting earlier in the month, Superintendent Mary Beth Jackson said she had concerns about the enrollment numbers for the incoming sixth-grade class at the science, technology, engineering, math and medical center. At the time, she said they would continue with the current students through 8th grade, but that she might propose to the school board that they not add any additional classes of students to it if numbers didn’t increase.
According to the article, students must earn a 5 on the FCAT math test to qualify for admission.
The argument over the STEMM Center highlights the question of whether the state and its school districts are genuinely interested in supporting the science and engineering pipeline. If Okaloosa isn’t interested, it’s almost certain that other Big Bend and Panhandle districts like Escambia, Leon, Jackson and Calhoun are not interested either.
In Leon, the clear leader in middle school science is a charter school, the School of Arts and Science, with its star teacher, Julie Sear.