Escambia County turning to consulting company to boost school performance

Escambia County turning to consulting company to boost school performance

Boosting school performance is the goal this year for the Escambia County School District.

Superintendent Malcolm Thomas hopes to do that with help from a New York-based company.

The school board has hired the Rensselaerville Institute to consult at Warrington Middle School, as well as nine elementary schools - most of which feed into Warrington.

The three-year contract will cost more than $500,000, but Thomas says in the end it will be money well spent.

The money is coming from a federally funded school improvement grant.

The focus of the Rensselaerville Institute is not on the students, but the principal and teachers; it's a trickle-down system.

"They're going to push them to step up," said Thomas. "And get the classrooms and the instructional process working as it should."

It's all about taking a proactive approach says Thomas, and not waiting for a failed test result to start making changes.

"We ought to be a gamechanger for these students," said Thomas. "So, the time we have them, we have to make sure we make a great impact."

This is not the first time Warrington Middle School has been home to a consultant. For the last four years, the district hired another company to increase performance, but the school's grade remained a 'D'.

Thomas says this time will be different.

"If Warrington Middle School is not a 'C' at the end of the year," said Thomas. "What they've charged us for the first year, they give my money back, or they serve us again for 12 months at no cost."

According to the Florida Department of Education, the last time the school earned a 'C' was in 2011.

"The over 50 years we've been in business, we've never given money back," said Tyrone Burton, who works for Rensselaerville Institute.

Burton is confident his team will continue the streak.

"The goal is that when we leave, growth will continue," said Burton. "We build capacity so they can continue the process of growth."

A new school year, a new consultant, a new principal and (Thomas hopes) a new opportunity to boost performance - but not just at Warrington Middle School.

"We're going to get very focused on all these schools," said Thomas. "To push them to a grade of C or higher."

Florida Department of Education data dating back to 1999 shows Warrington Middle School has never earned above a 'C'.

This year, the Escambia County School District earned a 'B', which is an upgrade from the previous two years.

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