Pam Dwyer, principal of Oakland Avenue Charter School, appeared before the Oakland Town Commission Tuesday, Aug. 23, to share highlights from the 2021-22 school year.
She praised the PTO for its generosity. The organization held five spirit restaurant nights, the school’s annual gala, and the Mega Blast and Boosterthon Fun Run fundraisers, which netted more than $60,000.
The PTO assisted in the purchase of a digital marquee and installation of the VPK playground and donated back fundraising money to purchase an interactive display board and cover for the back playground.
Technology integrations continued, Dwyer said, moving the school closer to 100% 1:1 digital learning.
The school has an enrollment of 531 students plus 60 in the VPK program.
OACS concentrated on a number of initiatives during the year, including focusing on gaps created due to learning loss and difficulties encountered with distance learning and mental health focus. Dwyer said staff has realized the increase in historical topics that need to be shared in social studies classes, such as the Holocaust, the Ocoee Massacre and Patriot Day.
Through the NEST community-building process, Eagle students were placed in different cohorts “to bring them together as a community,” Dwyer said.
During the school year, OACS was named an Orton Gillingham School, which utilizes the multisensory phonetics technique for remedial reading instruction, and training was successfully completed for 40 staff members as classroom educators and eight staff members on an Associate Level. The school also moved away from Common Core teaching and toward Florida’s Benchmarks for Excellent Student Thinking (B.E.S.T.) Standards for English Language Arts.
Dwyer said cursive writing is taught to every student from kindergarten to fifth. Learning clinics also were set up to assist students with specific needs.
The OACS chapter of the National Elementary Honor Society inducted about 80 fourth- and fifth-graders, and members participated in service project that included a sunflower fundraiser to benefit Ukraine, food and toy drives, and garden beautification.
Students continue to visit the Oakland Nature Preserve each week, and the preserve staff works with grade-level teachers to ensure the lessons align. Other partnerships include Bloom & Grow Garden Society, which helped create two butterfly gardens, and Junior Achievement, which sends volunteers to talk about financial literacy.
“It’s a great way to get students to hopefully understand the value of money and how it works and it doesn’t grow in the butterfly garden,” Dwyer said.
The 19-year-old facility received a number of improvements over the summer, too, including the painting of exterior overhangs and classrooms, and extensive HVAC infrastructure work.
“Overall, it wasn’t an easier year, it was easier than the two before … but it was definitely a great year,” Dwyer said. “We are very fortunate to have a staff and individuals who are willing to go above and beyond to do the best for our Eagles.
“We continue to be appreciative of your support of the school,” she told the commission.
“You guys knocked it out of the park,” Commissioner Mike Satterfield said to Dwyer. “This is a school to be proud of, and I would put it against any school in the country at this point.”
IN OTHER BUSINESS
• Town Manager Steve Koontz welcomed Jason DiDonato, who was hired by the town of Oakland to assist with the administrative duties at the Oakland Police Department.
• Samaria Lake was introduced as the newest full-time officer with the Oakland Police Department. She previously worked as a homicide detective in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
• Under the consent agenda, the commission approved a special exception to allow alcohol sales and a cigar-smoking section during the Sept. 24 HAPCO Jazz Show.
• Commissioner Mike Satterfield asked the commission to again consider purchasing sunshades for the playgrounds at Speer and Pollard parks. They are estimated to cost $80,000.
“I know it’s a lot of money, but I also know having kids on the playground all the time, it’s not safe for them,” Satterfield said.
The commission will continue to look for solutions.
• Mayor Kathy Stark read proclamations declaring Sept. 16 Healthy Selfie Day, Sept. 15 through Oct. 15 Hispanic Heritage Month and September National Preparedness Month in the town of Oakland.
• Koontz announced the commission will next meet Monday, Sept. 12, instead of the normal Tuesday date. The tentative budget meeting is at 6:30 p.m., and the regular meeting will follow at 7.