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Dropout Rate Hits Lowest Level in 12 Years

Polk County Public Schools’ dropout rate has declined to a 12-year low, according to the most current data from the Florida Department of Education. In 2013-14, the dropout rate was 3.4 percent. This is a 2.5 percent decrease from the prior year, and represents a significant turning point.


School Board Meeting Schedule for Aug. 25, 2015

The Polk County School Board will hold a special work session at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2015. At 1 p.m., board members will participate in a training session for the Florida School Board Association’s Master Board program certification.


Oscar J. Pope Elementary Celebrates 50th Anniversary

Lakeland’s Oscar J. Pope Elementary School is proudly celebrating 50 years of history and memories this year. The school, at 2730 Maine Ave. in Lakeland, will honor its special milestone during a 50th anniversary gathering on Saturday, Aug. 22, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.


Participating Schools Announced for Free Meal Program

Polk County Public Schools has announced the schools to be served by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) for 2015-2016. The CEP allows schools that serve low income areas and children to provide breakfast and lunch to all students at no charge.
View List of Participating Schools...


New Administrators Announced

Superintendent Kathryn M. LeRoy and the Polk County School Board approved the appointments of 10 administrators during the School Board’s August 11 meeting. Click the read more button below to view a complete list and read the administrators' bios.


Teacher Opportunities and Job Fair Information

As a large and growing district, Polk County Public Schools has a significant need for teachers across a wide variety of subject areas and grade levels. A job fair will be held on August 14th at Ridge Community High School to help address the need for teachers at several East Polk schools. Districtwide there are more than 700 openings for new and experienced teachers.


Polk County Public Schools Offering Free Prep Course to Help Students Earn Diploma

Polk County Public Schools is offering a free 20-hour ACT prep course to help those students who received a certificate of completion in the spring of 2015 earn a standard high school diploma.


New Administrators Announced

Superintendent Kathryn M. LeRoy and the Polk County School Board approved the appointments of 20 administrators during the School Board’s July 28 meeting. Click the read more button below to view a complete list and read the administrators' bios.


Summer Commencement Ceremony to be Held July 29

Approximately 20 students are expected to attend a Summer Commencement ceremony scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday, July 29, 2015 at George W. Jenkins High School in Lakeland. The ceremony recognizes area students who were unable to graduate during the spring, but have worked hard to fulfill missing requirements by taking courses during the summer. Accomplished businessman George Tinsley, Sr. will be the featured guest speaker.


School Board Meeting Scheduled for July 28, 2015

The Polk County School Board will hold its next work session and board meeting on Tuesday, July 28, 2015. The board meeting will include a public hearing on the tentative budget and millage rates. The meeting also will feature a public hearing on a small area rezoning for Spessard L. Hollard Elementary School to Valleyview Elementary School, a small area rezoning for Sleepy Hill Middle School to Southwest Middle School, and a small area rezoning for Auburndale High School to Tenoroc High School. The rezonings have no impact on current students.


Kathleen Elementary School Wins Family and Community Involvement Award

Kathleen Elementary School is one of just 10 Florida schools to win the 2015 Family and Community Involvement Awards. The winning schools were recognized for successful implementation of programs that encourage increased family and community engagement. Kathleen Elementary was noted for its Student Success events, which allow students and parents to gather at the school to discuss goals, enjoy activities and meals together, and receive educational materials for use at home.


FFA LogoPolk Students, Schools Earn Top Honors at FFA State Convention

Polk students brought home multiple awards from the 87th Florida FFA State Convention & Expo, which took place earlier this month at the Caribe Royale Orlando. The convention featured challenging career development events (CDE) and activities for FFA members. The national organization serves students who are interested in agriculture and leadership.


Evan BuddHarrison Student Wins National Merit Scholarship

Evan J. Budd has joined the list of National Merit Scholarship winners, becoming the fourth Polk student to do so this year. Evan, who graduated from the Lois Cowles Harrison Center for the Visual and Performing Arts, is one of 1,700 newly-announced winners of National Merit Scholarships financed by colleges and universities. Budd was selected by the University of Central Florida and plans to study biomedical engineering.


Polk Schools Has Great Opportunities and Starting Pay for Teachers

It pays to teach in Polk County! At $40,000, Polk County Public Schools has one of the very highest salaries for new teachers in Central Florida. Those with a master’s degree start at $42,181. For eligible applicants, we also offer a new teacher bonus and incentives worth up to $3,000, as well as generous benefits and perks. The new school year is fast approaching and Polk Schools has an abundance of opportunities for both new and experienced teachers. Work with us, and you’ll have a full range of teacher support, academic coaching and free professional development opportunities.


Special Meeting Scheduled for Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Please be advised that Superintendent of Schools Kathryn LeRoy has called a special meeting of the School Board of Polk County, scheduled for Tuesday, July 14, 2015. The special meeting will include a vote on a recommendation to approve a settlement in pending litigation to which the School Board is a party. During the special meeting, there will be a private attorney-client meeting to discuss settlement negotiations in connection with pending litigation related to the Deepwater Horizon spill.


Davenport-K-8-GroundbreakingPolk County Public Schools Breaks Ground on New School in Davenport

The construction process has officially started on the District’s new K-8 school in Davenport. The school, which has yet to go through a formal naming process, will have the capacity to serve a total 1,400 students from the pre-kindergarten level through eighth grade. The $43 million, approximately 200,000-square-foot facility is set to open at the beginning of the school year in August 2016, and will ease crowding at other schools in northeast Polk County.


Career Academies Earn Prestigious National Certification

Four career academies achieved a major goal at the end of the school year: earning national certification from the National Career Academy Coalition (NCAC). After undergoing an extensive review process, certification was awarded to Bartow Medical and Fire Academy at Bartow High School, Central Florida Aerospace Academy at Kathleen High School, Lakeland Electric Power Academy at Tenoroc High School, and the Leadership/ROTC Academy at Summerlin Academy. Both the Central Florida Aerospace Academy and Leadership/ROTC Academy earned the NCAC’s premier “model” designation.


New Administrators Announced

Superintendent Kathryn M. LeRoy and the Polk County School Board approved the following appointments during the School Board’s June 23, 2015 meeting:
- Vaughn Belcher, Director of Transportation Operations
-Kerry Chapman, Principal of James W. Sikes Elementary School
-Terri Christian, Principal of Gause Academy of Leadership
-Dr. Benjamin Henry, Principal of Highlands Grove Elementary School
-Alicia Hughes, Assistant Principal of Davenport School of the Arts
-Dwayne Johnson, Assistant Principal of Bartow Middle School
-Octavia May, Principal of Auburndale Central Elementary School
-Myra Richardson, Principal of Medulla Elementary School
-Jose Rosario, Assistant Director of Ridge Career Center
-Julie Sloan, Principal of Southwest Elementary School


Tierra ThomasLake Gibson Graduate is a 2015 Gates Millennium Scholar

Lake Gibson High School’s Tierra Thomas is part of the Gates Millennium Scholars (GMS) Class of 2015. Thomas is one of only 1,000 high school students to receive the prestigious scholarships this year. The GMS program awards scholarships to high-performing minority students, allowing them to pursue a degree in any undergraduate major and selected graduate programs at accredited colleges and universities.


Lakeland High Ranked Among Nation’s Best by U.S. News & World Report

Lakeland High School is featured in the latest rankings of the nation’s Best High Schools published by U.S. News & World Report. “This is certainly great news for our school and community,” said Lakeland High School Principal Arthur Martinez. “It just goes to show how committed our students and teachers are to education. The expectations are high, and teachers do a wonderful job in delivering the material to students. It is a tribute to the job our teachers do daily.”


Math Coaches Selected for International Fellowship Program

Six mathematics coaches will spend this summer traveling the world to support educators who serve military families. The math coaches – Tina Barbee, Erica Brink, Kerri Foster, Mike Greenlee, Brad Hardesty, and Heather Kiefer – were among just 100 fellows selected for the Charles A. Dana Center’s International Facilitation Fellow Program. The program trains teachers working for the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) – the civilian agency responsible for educating some 75,000 children of service members stationed around the world.


Summer Schedule Now Available for Title I Parent Informational Resource Centers

Title I Parent Informational Resource Centers will be open during summer hours beginning Tuesday, June 9 through Friday, August 14, 2015. The centers provide helpful educational workshops and are open to all parents of students who attend a Title I school. Students are welcome to attend if accompanied by a parent. The Parent Resource Centers offer activities and crafts for parents to enjoy with their children, board games, educational materials for check out, visits from the Books Bridge Bus, and free classes for parents.


Polk County Public Schools Announces 2015 Hall of Fame Inductees

2015 Hall of Fame Inductees

The Polk County Public Schools Hall of Fame welcomes four new outstanding members for 2015. This year’s class of inductees features basketball great Otis Birdsong, education advocate Hollis Hooks, Inheritance of Hope founder Deric Milligan, and Benjamin Stevenson, executive director of the Lakeland Housing Authority. The Hall of Fame event will be broadcast live from the Lake Ashton Country Club at 6:30 p.m. Friday, June 5th on Polk County School Board Television airing on Bright House Networks channel 642, Comcast channel 7 and Verizon FiOS channel 45. It also will be streamed on the school district’s website.


Sales Tax Oversight Committee Meeting Scheduled for Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Please be advised that more than one Polk County School Board member has been invited to attend a Sales Tax Oversight Committee meeting scheduled for Tuesday, June 16 at 5:30 p.m. The meeting will take place at Chain of Lakes Elementary School, 7001 County Road 653, Winter Haven, FL 33884. The purpose of the meeting is to conduct a review of projects funded by the half-penny sales tax.


School Board Meetings for Tuesday, June 9, 2015 Canceled

Please be advised the Polk County School Board work session and board meeting scheduled for Tuesday, June 9 have been canceled.

The School Board will hold its next work session at 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday, June 23 in the Superintendent’s Conference Room, followed by a board meeting at 5:00 p.m. in the School Board Auditorium. Both meetings will take place at 1915 South Floral Ave., Bartow, FL 33830.

The board meeting will include a public hearing on the rezoning of attendance zones for elementary schools in northeast Polk County. The schools that may be affected by rezoning are: Alta Vista Elementary, Eastside Elementary, Horizons Elementary and Loughman Oaks Elementary.


Harrison Students Earn Raves at Film Fests

Film festivals in Florida and California are taking notice and bestowing honors on films created by students at Lois Cowles Harrison Center for the Visual and Performing Arts. "We have been extremely lucky this year," said Rick Jansen, who teaches motion picture arts at the Lakeland school.  "We've had more films selected to play in film festivals this year than we have any year prior!  All of us in the Motion Picture Arts program have been so excited. The students have worked really hard to create original films." Three films have been accepted into the 2015 Skyway Film Festival in Bradenton, FL. They will be screened in June. So what's next for the Motion Picture Arts program?  "Maybe we'll try Sundance Film Festival next year," said Jansen.


Bartow IB National Merit Scholarship WinnersBartow High IB Produces Two National Merit Scholarship Winners

Two students from the International Baccalaureate School at Bartow High School are newly-announced winners of National Merit Scholarships. William A. Gibson of Bartow and Lakeland’s Neel K. Shah are two of approximately 2,200 winners of National Merit Scholarships financed by U.S. colleges and universities. Gibson was selected by George Washington University and intends to pursue a career in computer engineering. Shah, chosen by the University of Central Florida, plans to study medicine.


Students Will Share Their Discoveries at Elementary Science Showcase

More than 400 students will share their scientific discoveries and curiosity at the Polk County Elementary Science Showcase. This event will take place from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. on May 28 and 29 at the Lakeland Square Mall, 3800 U.S. Highway 98 North in Lakeland. Elementary schools from across the county will participate in the showcase. Rather than competition, the showcase’s goal is for students to conduct independent investigations about topics that interest them and sharpen their communication skills by sharing their results.


Outstanding School Volunteers of the YearVolunteers Honored During Outstanding School Volunteer of the Year Awards Program

Students, faculty and district staff members came together May 21 to say thank you and celebrate during the annual Outstanding School Volunteer of the Year Awards Program. This award ceremony acknowledges the crucial role school volunteers play in students’ lives and how they enrich our schools with their selfless dedication. Awards were bestowed at the elementary and secondary level in the following categories: “Outstanding Adult Volunteer of the Year,” “Outstanding Youth Volunteer of the Year” and “Outstanding Senior Volunteer of the Year.” These winners were selected from among more than 100 people named “Volunteers of the Year” at their respective schools.


Joanna SandsStudents’ Research Projects Earn Awards at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair

Three Polk County students received awards at the International Science and Engineering Fair last week in Pittsburg, PA. Approximately 1,700 high school students from more than 75 countries, regions, and territories showcased their independent research at the fair and competed for approximately $4 million in prizes.


Polk County Public Schools Takes Advantage of Flexibility and Won’t Count State-Mandated, End-of-Course Exam Results for Algebra and Geometry Toward Final Grades for 2014-2015 School Year

Polk County Public Schools will take advantage of some flexibility permitted by the Florida Department of Education and will not use state end-of-course exam results in algebra and geometry when calculating student grades for the 2014-2015 school year.

“The results of these new exams are still being studied, and it has not yet been determined whether they will provide a valid assessment of student performance,” said Heather Wright, Senior Director of Assessment, Accountability & Evaluation with Polk County Public Schools.


Joanna SandsBartow High/Summerlin Academy Student Earns National Merit Scholarship

The National Merit Scholarship Corporation has named Joanna M. Sands, a student at Bartow Senior High and Summerlin Academy, a $2,500 Merit Scholarship winner. She was chosen from a pool of more than 15,000 finalists in the 2015 National Merit Scholarship program.

National Merit $2,500 Scholarship winners are chosen because they display the strongest combination of accomplishments, skills and potential for success in rigorous college studies.


Superintendent's Scholars AwardsSuperintendent’s Scholars Awards Honor Top Graduating Seniors

The top high school seniors took center stage on May 11 during the 2014-2015 Superintendent’s Scholars Awards. The ceremony recognized 799 seniors for their outstanding educational achievements. Superintendent’s Scholars include graduating seniors who have earned a 3.8 GPA or higher by their seventh semester. They were awarded medallions as a symbol of their accomplishment to be worn at graduation later this year.


Summerlin Academy Equestrian Team Rides Away As “Reserve Champion” in Competition

Summerlin Academy Equestrian TeamThe Summerlin Academy Equestrian Team took home an impressive win during a recent regional dressage competition. The academy’s four-member equestrian team earned second place - or “Reserve Champion” - and also qualified in the top five for Region 12, which encompasses Florida, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee, North Carolina and Mississippi.

The team competed against three other teams in the Region 12 Arabian Championship, which was held May 4-9 in Perry, Ga. The team consisted of Lauren Branam (riding Al-Marah Dude), Rachel Evans (riding YF Full Sail), Jessica McCall (riding Fan the Flame) and Marcus Wright (riding Krystal Dahl).


Winter Haven High Joins Global Community of Cambridge Schools

Winter Haven High School has been awarded Cambridge International School status by Cambridge International Examinations and is now approved to offer Cambridge programs and qualifications, including Cambridge IGCSE, AS and A level.

Parents interested in learning more about the offerings can attend a meeting on Tuesday, May 19, from 6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. at Winter Haven High School’s auditorium, 600 6th Street SE, Winter Haven, FL, 33880.

Cambridge programs and qualifications are recognized and valued by universities and employers around the world. Cambridge helps schools deliver the best education possible by providing comprehensive support, including teacher training, classroom resources and membership of a global learning community.


A Balanced Approach to Student Assessment

In anticipation of legislative changes, Superintendent Kathryn LeRoy charged her staff in January with reviewing district assessments to eliminate any considered redundant, not instructionally useful or that do not provide an accurate measurement of student learning. “The Superintendent believes assessment data can be an extremely valuable tool and is essential for a high-quality education,” said Jacqueline Bowen, Chief Academic Officer for Polk County Public Schools. “When used correctly, it can provide a wealth of information on how students are performing, and whether teaching techniques and coursework are effective. However, an overload of assessments that do not provide useful data places undue stress on students."


Superintendent Takes Part in Discussion with U.S. Department of Education Official on Ways To Improve Graduation Rates

Polk County Superintendent Kathryn LeRoy traveled to Washington, D.C., and met on Thursday, April 23, with the U.S. Department of Education's Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education, Dr. Deborah Delisle, to discuss the multiple pathways approach Polk County is implementing to improve graduation rates. LeRoy was invited with Atlantic Research Partners to share best practices with the USDOE through the newly established Acceleration Academies opened across five locations in Polk County.


Start Date for 2015-2016 School Year Will Be August 24

Please be advised that Polk County Public Schools will not change its start date for the 2015-2016 school year. The start date will remain August 24. Governor Rick Scott recently signed legislation that allows Florida school districts to start school earlier. Previously, schools were required to start no earlier than 14 days before Labor Day. However, Polk County Public Schools will not change its start date for the 2015-2016 school year, which has been previously published. To review the district’s calendar, please visit


Lunch and Learn: High School Seniors and Superintendent Share Food and Insights

Thirteen high school seniors recently gathered together to eat lunch and share their insights with Superintendent Kathryn M. LeRoy. The program called “Lunch and Learn” allows graduating seniors from across the School District a chance to meet personally with the Superintendent and offer valuable feedback about their experiences in Polk County Public Schools.


State Science and Engineering Fair Awards

Polk students earned top prizes at the 60th Annual State Science and Engineering Fair held earlier this month in Lakeland. The State Science and Engineering Fair is a three-day display of science project exhibits developed by nearly 900 student finalists in sixth through twelfth grade. The competition is to foster an interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) related career fields, introduce students to organized research and provide teachers and students alike a forum for exchanging ideas.


Two Students Receive Scholarships in 2015 National Achievement Scholarship Program

Two Polk County students have been awarded scholarships through the 2015 National Achievement Scholarship Program, an annual academic competition to recognize promising black students. Congratulations to Trevorn Hodge of Bartow Senior High, and Jeremiah D. Masseus of International Baccalaureate School at Bartow Senior High. Each received a $2,500 scholarship.


Students Honored at Annual “About Face Awards”

On Tuesday, April 7, the 21st annual About Face Awards recognized 45 middle and high school student honorees who have made positive changes and noticeable improvements in their academic careers. The ceremony took place at the Bartow Civic Center. Polk County Public Schools hosts this event to encourage students who have made an “about face” in their schools by improving their grade point average, attendance, or attitude.


Mulberry Middle’s Parent Resource Center Celebrates Grand Opening

Polk County Public Schools is proud to announce the grand opening of its fifth Title I Parent Resource Center, located at Mulberry Middle School. The opening celebration took place Tuesday, April 7. The Mulberry Parent Resource Center will provide literature, computers, and classes to local parents. The objective is to educate, equip and partner with students and their support systems by offering a variety of relevant programs and resources that make a positive impact on the individual and the community. Polk County Public Schools believes that building stronger parent-learning communities will increase student achievement.


Kindergarten Registration/Round-Up Begins Monday, April 6, 2015 for Students New to Kindergarten in the 2015-2016 School Year

Polk County Public Schools will again allow parents and guardians the option to register their children online for kindergarten for the 2015-2016 school year. Parents and guardians are being urged to sign up beginning Monday, April 6, and will have the option to register in person at their zoned school. The registration period ends on Friday, May 8. On April 30th schools have designated times to enroll kindergartners; watch for specific times on the school marque. Students entering kindergarten must be five-years-old on or before September 1, 2015.


sciencePolk Students Will Compete at State Science and Engineering Fair (#PRSEF15 and #SSEF15)

Polk County students will compete and showcase their research projects at the 60th Annual State Science and Engineering Fair (SSEF) of Florida. The event will take place from March 31 to April 2 at The Lakeland Center, 701 West Lime Street, Lakeland, FL 33815. The public is invited to review the students’ exhibits on Wednesday, April 1, from 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. An awards ceremony will be held the next evening.


Conference of Minority Transportation Officials Central Florida Chapter annual Garret A. Morgan Shadow Day

Thirty 11th grade students from Kathleen High School participated in the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials (COMTO) Central Florida Chapter annual Garret A. Morgan Shadow Day that was held at Florida Polytechnic University.


Students Compete at Annual History Fair

This year’s Polk County History Fair showcased over 120 middle and high school student competitors. Their projects, which ranged from essays to performances and web pages, creatively brought history to life. This year’s theme, “Leadership and Legacy in History,” covered topics including Eleanor Roosevelt, the Watergate scandal and Steve Jobs.


Fort Meade Middle-Senior Educator Selected to Tour Germany

Elizabeth Rasmussen, a Fort Meade Middle-Senior social studies teacher, recently received the honor of being selected by the Transatlantic Outreach Program (TOP) to participate in a study tour of Germany for two weeks this summer. Rasmussen is one of about 100 highly qualified educators selected to attend this program.


Ridge Career Center Students Win First Place at Florida Future Educators of America Convention

This year, eight students from Ridge Career Center attended the Florida Future Educators of America (FFEA) State Convention. The team of future educators traveled to Orlando for the convention, where they participated in workshops with 500 other high school and college students from around the state as well as competitions. They won first place in the chapter display competition. The students’ display reflected the convention’s theme.


Kathleen High Students Learn About Career Opportunities in Transportation

Kathleen High School Participated in the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials Central Florida Chapter annual Garret A. Morgan Shadow Day. The program is designed to educate students in grades kindergarten through 12 about career opportunities in transportation. The goal is to ensure that the nation is equipped with a workforce that can embrace the unlimited opportunities of the 21st century.


Lake Gibson Senior High Team is Runner-Up in New “Unified Sports” Basketball Championship

A team from Lake Gibson Senior High was the runner-up in the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) Unified Sports Basketball Championship. For the first time ever, the FHSAA basketball state finals included integrated basketball games - better known as Unified Sports - where teams include Special Olympics athletes.


Alexis Martin being recognizedThird-Grader Wins Grand Prize For Innovative Idea

Alexis Martin, a third grade student at Spessard L. Holland Elementary, grabbed the $1,000 grand prize at the University of South Florida’s Young Innovator Competition. Martin competed as one of the top 10 finalists during an event February 11 at USF’s Tampa campus. More than 500 students submitted inventions from Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Hernando, Citrus, Manatee, Sarasota and Polk counties.


Mathcounts ParticipantsStudents Flex Mental Muscles at Local Math Competition

More than 150 middle school students took part in the 2015 Ridge Chapter MATHCOUNTS Competition, which featured 23 schools spread across the county. The competition was held February 7 at Tenoroc High in Lakeland.


NASA Engineer PhotoLake Alfred Elementary Students Experience Out-of-This-World Presentation

Students at Lake Alfred Elementary learned all about reaching for the stars thanks to a special guest. Gabe Gabrielle, an engineer with NASA and a member of its speakers bureau, came to the school to discuss careers available in space exploration. He also passed along an inspirational message encouraging the boys and girls to follow their dreams.


HealthierUS School Challenge School Board RecognitionScott Lake Elementary Challenges Students to Live Healthier Lives

Scott Lake Elementary has stepped up to the challenge of improving the health of its children and community. The school has been recognized as part of the HealthierUS School Challenge (HUSSC), a voluntary national certification initiative for schools participating in the National School Lunch Program.


Three Cheers to Bartow High’s Cheerleaders

Congratulations to Bartow Senior High’s cheerleading squad for finishing second place at the recent national cheerleading competition.


Frank E. Brigham Academy and Horizons Elementary Take Top Honors at the District’s Annual Teacher, School-Related Employee of the Year Awards

Adam J. Smith, a fourth grade teacher at Frank E. Brigham Academy, and Jason Leatherwood, an Exceptional Student Education (ESE) paraprofessional at Horizons Elementary, took home the top prize tonight during Polk County Public Schools’ 2015 Teacher of the Year, and School-Related Employee of the Year event.