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Gittens gets support for education cooperative

August 5, 2020
By MEGHAN BRADBURY ( , Lehigh Acres Citizen

The Lee County School Board unanimously supported fellow board member Gwyn Gittens' efforts in putting together the East Lee Education Cooperative during a workshop in July.

Superintendent Dr. Greg Adkins said he was glad that the board is supportive of Gittens' initiative and he is happy that it has moved to the Lehigh, East Lee County community.

Gittens said she would love for the board to be behind her on the East Lee Education Cooperative because the community members are dedicated.

"I would like to do it in conjunction with the board," Gittens said. "It's basically a community group that is trying to help our students, education and help the district achieve the goals to help all of our children."

She explained that the cooperative allows everyone to have a piece of it, providing everyone with a say.

"Everyone has to do their part, or it crumbles," Gittens said. "We don't have a head of this, or that. It is a co-op and it's everybody's ideas and thoughts, rolling up their sleeves."

All of the board members shared their remarks of the cooperative, all of which were positive and incredibly supportive of her actions.

"I think this gives more coherence to Lehigh Acres," Board Member Betsy Vaughn said.

Board Member Cathleen O'Daniel Morgan loved the idea.

"I love what you are doing. You are providing some substance and focal point for the community. I think it is terrific. Good for you," she said to Gittens. "It seems like a good plan."

The co-op also received high praises due to it putting the district's strategic plan into practice of increasing family and community engagement. .

"I think you have done a great job and I do support it. I know the work you have done for your community is one of advocacy and I do appreciate it," Board Chair Mary Fischer said.

Board Member Melisa Giovannelli said with Lehigh Acres sometimes getting left out, she is excited that Gittens is bringing the cooperative to the table.

"I think it is a great opportunity for Lehigh," she said.

The East Lee Education Cooperative is comprised of teachers, parents and community business owners of different demographics who are all interested in helping the children in the community. Once the group identifies an issue they invite district personnel to the meeting to help them understand that issue more, all while finding possible solutions of how to resolve those issues.

Gittens told the board members during a July 27 Zoom workshop that the cooperative's first discussion revolved around the digital divide and ways they could better communicate information to the community.

One of the solutions was sending out the back to school instructional model selection survey, which consists of parents choosing the face-to-face, Lee Virtual School, Lee Home Connect, or home school model for their child, through the mail.

Gittens said in addition to the letters being sent out to the families, the schools also agreed to do a follow-up regarding what option the parents chose.

"It's something that came out of the group, how do we get to the people we are not reaching," she said.

Another discussion that the East Lee Education Cooperative had included the district's human resources department. The issue at hand was that the East Zone tends to be the training zone where people come into the district, work for a year or two, before they are put somewhere better in the district.

"How do we become that place where people want to come and stay rather than the training and waiting ground," Gittens said was the question.

Another topic that will be discussed revolves around the achievement gap and how the cooperative can help improve that gap. Gittens said there have been ideas of having parents volunteer to help schools get ready, reading to kids and helping to mentor students.

"Those are the kinds of things that come out of the group. There is no contractional agreement because we are not a financial group," she said.

The group eventually wants to take all of the actionable items that have been gathered and form it into a concrete list, utilizing different people to head up areas and move those items to fruition.

The cooperative discusses actionable items that they as a community, or the district, or the district and community can do together to fix the items.

"It's actionable items we can use to get this done as a village," Gittens said.

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