WHS is an ‘A’ school

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By Carolyn Ten Broeck

A night to celebrate the holidays and winter break turned into another kind of excitement last week when Williston High School Principal Eulin Gibbs learned his school had earned an “A” ranking for the second year in a row.

Gibbs said the party was under way with the naming of teacher of the year and ESP of the year.

“We were getting ready to our gift exchange,” Gibb said, “when I noticed some of my staff passing a cell phone around.”

The second or third person to have the phone told Gibbs, who was on the stage at the Williston Woman’s Club, that he probably should see what they were seeing.

“It’s an email from Mr. Hastings (school superintendent),” Gibbs was told. “We’re an “A” school again.”

The principal said he started fist pumping and calling, “Yay!” while camera shutters clicked.

Gibbs credits the entire faculty, staff, students and support group for the honor.

“This staff gelled,” Gibbs said. “They came together. They knew this wasn’t an “F” school.”

For 10 straight years, Williston High School was a “C” school, Gibbs said and then came the shocking “F” just four years ago.

The state came in, awarded a grant and the school set out to make drastic changes and improvements.

The next year, WHS was on the road to recovery with a “C’ grade, then a “B” and then last year, an “A.”

But it’s like climbing a mountain, Gibbs said.  It takes a lot of effort, work and dedication to get to the top–but then it takes just as much–or more–to stay there.

Utilizing a point system, the minimum required for an “A” is 1,050, Gibbs said. In the 2011-2012 school year, WHS received 1099 points.

But this past school year he and his staff were concerned it could be less because the students’ writing scores weren’t what they should be.

WHS excelled in Algebra I, Biology, CTE and dual enrollment, its graduation rate improved from 89 percent to 91.27 percent and FCAT scores improved by three points.

But was it enough?

With the loss of grant money and therefore, the additional staff that had been brought in to help improve the once-”F” school, Gibbs assessed the situation and started utilizing his staff to coach and mentor 55 at-risk students. He and four others each took 11 students and began spending time with them to ensure they stayed on track for progress.

The result? For the 2012-2013 school year, WHS scored 1,139 points–topping the previous year’s score by 40 points.

“I’m walking on air,” the principal said. “We rose to the challenge and met it. I enjoy what I do. I’m a cheerleader for this school.”

Additionally, Gibbs learned in early December that WHS was awarded placement in the Top 75 high schools in the state of Florida for its improvement in Reading FCAT scores and Science End of Course Exam scores during the 2012-2013 school year.  

Gov. Rick Scott personally signed a letter congratulating WHS for its consistent effort in striving for academic excellence.  Williston High School ranked 48 out of 439 high schools in the area of Improved Reading Performance and 65 out of 451 high schools in the area of Science Proficiency Scores. 

“It’s exciting to know we out-performed 90 percent of the schools in the state,” Gibbs said.