Orange County delivers State of Schools address

New school to be built next to Performing Arts Center in Orlando

ORLANDO, Fla. – Orange County School Board Chair Bill Sublette and Superintendent Barbara Jenkins delivered the 2015 State of the Schools address Tuesday morning in downtown Orlando.

For the first time, the annual address was held at the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center. To mark the occasion, Orange County Public Schools (OCPS) made an announcement that plans to build a school next to the performance hall are in the works.

"It's been three years in the making, and we've been engaged in intensive discussions for the last four or five months," said Sublette.

The proposed 500 student high school will be a performing arts magnet school and will give students a chance to work with professionals at Dr. Phillips.

The school will also be zoneless, which means that any student in Orange County would be eligible to attend.

"We think we will have a waiting list as long as our arm to get into this school, because it will be the preeminate arts school in Orange County," said Sublette.

At the address, statewide testing concerns were also discussed.

The school board chair said problems with the state's new FSA tests coupled with end of course exams and new teacher merit pay law has been a source of great frustration.

"This testing debacle has been a black eye for public schools throughout the state of Florida and we need the governor to step up and fix this issue, and we need legislature to step up and fix this issue," said Sublette.

Sublette suggested allowing a one year "hold harmless" period while the state validates testing and publishes benchmarks.

"We have not even been told what the passing score is yet for those unvalidated, unproven tests and that's just crazy," said Sublette.

Meanwhile, OCPS also addressed overcrowding in what's already one of the largest districts in the state.

Twelve schools in the district are currently over capacity by 150 percent, and the number of overcrowded schools is expected to double in five years.

To combat the issue, Sublette called upon county comissioners to help with future school site approval.

"Having a school in your neighborhood is a good thing," said Sublette. "It's the focal point of that neighborhood, and we need earlier approvals from the county commission."

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