What brought you to education and what makes you stay?
When I was in high school, I had a few teachers and coaches who really made a big impact on my life. So, I decided I wanted to be a teacher and coach and hopefully be that positive influence on the lives of young people. I choose to stay in public education because I see that positive impact, we are all having. In each role, from classroom teacher to school administrator, to district administrator we have the opportunity to improve the educational outcomes for our students. It is so rewarding to see students excited about learning, teachers excited about teaching, and leaders excited about bringing positive change to their schools.
Prior to your appointment as Brevard County Schools Superintendent, you previously held the role of superintendent a few years ago in another Florida district. Since you last held the superintendency, what changes (if any) do you observe in the role, and are there new challenges and/or opportunities that were not there before?
We seem to have lost focus on the teacher and student in the classroom. There is a lot of external noise that is distracting us from that focus. I have said here in Brevard that we need to view everything from the lens of a “one-room schoolhouse” with that single teacher and their students. Every decision that we make should be focused on the impact it has on that classroom. And if it isn’t a positive impact – we need to reconsider it.
What is your main area of focus for this year?
The first focus is always student achievement. Brevard is not performing at the level we are used to, so we need to improve in that area. Part of that is an emphasis on STEM. We are the Space Coast. We are the hub of the Space Exploration Industry and so our schools need to be leaders in the area of STEM education. We are developing partnerships with local Space Industry companies and post-secondary institutions to provide new programs in STEM.
How are you working to recruit and retain staff?
We are trying to make Brevard the place that everyone wants to work. Part of that is increased wages, but more important is a big focus on general working conditions. For example, we are making concrete efforts to support classroom teachers with some revisions to the teacher contract to give them more release time and flexibility. We are also making a concerted effort to celebrate all of the great things our employees are doing. Make the atmosphere enjoyable and rewarding and people will come to work with energy and enthusiasm each day.
What do you think is the most important skill for a superintendent to develop?
Building the leadership capacity of the other people on the team. The Superintendent can’t lead the organization by themselves. This has to be a team effort. Find people with the ability to lead who have a capacity for work. Empower them to do the job and then support and guide them along the way. The higher functioning your team is, the better the outcomes for all involved.
What do you most want students to remember from their time in school?
I want them to feel that their time in school was valuable. That it was productive and prepared them for life. I also want them to miss it when they leave. Think about that. If you had a positive experience with something, you miss it when it is gone. But if it is not a positive experience, you do not miss it.
Outside of being a superintendent, what is something that your colleagues may not know about you that you would like to share.
I love to travel. My father was in the Navy, so I moved around a lot when I was growing up. I have not lost that urge to travel. Ready to go on a new adventure at any time.
Individual you admire most for their positive impact on public education.
I had a lot of admiration for former U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Reilly. I thought a lot of his work at the national level was beneficial for our country.