Education in Bay County – Let’s market what we have!

by April 7, 2008 • 0 comments


By: Juliann Talkington

Juliann Talkington is the administrator of the Panama City Renaissance School. She can be reached on 850-215-8712 or

What do employers and employees look for when they consider an area for relocation? Schools are always at the top of the list. Employers want skilled workers and potential employees want quality education at a reasonable cost.

So what is the state of primary and secondary education in Bay County and the nearby areas?

Within the past five years the number of schooling options has increased substantially. Most follow the standard US education model, but the area now hosts a Montessori school (South Walton Montessori Academy in Rosemary Beach) and a school that offers academics to the higher European and Asian standards and foreign language immersion (Panama City Renaissance School).

In other parts of the country, similar schools cost $15,000 – $35,000 per year. In Bay County, parents can enroll a child in a top private school for less than $6000 per year.

The standard US model schools are certainly better than many in the state. However, in Bay County many children still score below children in other parts of Florida, well below children educated in other parts of the country and years behind children educated Europe and Asia (a problem everywhere in the US).

On the positive side, Rutherford High School offers the International Baccalaureate (IB) program, Mosley High School has a selective advanced placement program called MAPPS, Bay High School offers an advanced program called AICE and Arnold hosts a collegiate studies program. Each year a small number of Bay County high school graduates are admitted to some of the best universities in the US (Harvard, Stanford, etc.). In addition, bright students are allowed to dual enroll in Gulf Coast Community College.

Bay County has one well-regarded Charter Academy (Bay Haven located in Lynn Haven) that provides education for elementary and middle school students. In addition, there are many private parochial elementary and middle schools. Most offer programs that are similar to what is available in the public system without the public school distractions. Children at St. John’s Catholic School (located in Panama City) do well in national standardized testing.

So what needs to be done?

Most companies don’t expect fancy facilities, but they do expect top performance. They want kids who are very good with English, math, and science. A good understanding of history is certainly a bonus.

This means we need to better highlight what we have. Many people considering a move to Bay County don’t know the area offers academic programs that rival what is available in large metropolitan areas like New York and San Francisco.

Then we need to take radical steps to make the rest of our schools the best — in Florida, the US and finally on par with top programs in Europe and Asia.

When we market what we have and improve the rest, we should have people from all over the world fighting to move here. Just think what a wonderful thing that would be for our economy and our way of life.


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