Superintendent Spotlight:

Taylor County Schools Superintendent Alicia Beshears

What brought you to education and what makes you stay?

With 3 young children back in the 90’s I believed that education was the best way to transition back to work from being a stay-at-home mom and still have the opportunity to spend time with my girls. I looked at teaching and thought: summers off, leave every day at 3 and never have to work a weekend, I can have it all! How young and naive was I? Nevertheless, it was still the best career choice, even after all the harsh realities set in.

I have stayed the course because I believe in what we do, I believe what we do matters, and I believe this is a field that will never become stagnant, because let’s face it, no two days (or new laws) are ever the same.


What do you most want to accomplish during your superintendency? What obstacles stand in your way and how do you plan to overcome them?


I would like to see our district become an academically high performing district. As it stands, we have one small and isolated school that has been recognized as a school of distinction. I am super proud of that, but one is simply not enough.

Of course, it’s one thing to say something isn’t acceptable, and quite another to do something about it. As we look at barriers, I’d have to say two things come to mind: the lack of qualified teachers, and parental/community support.


While I appreciate all the new pathways to becoming a teacher, I have reservations about the mindset that seems to be it is a job that anyone can do. These new applicants may drive our candidate numbers up, but surely exacerbate the lack of highly qualified instructional personnel. To combat this, we are providing more professional learning opportunities to our new teachers led by our teacher leaders. We have also expanded our peer teacher and mentor programs and begun a “Grow Your Own” program with the addition of our Early Childhood Education program.


The current lack of parental/community support is one that I feel is at an all-time high. I feel much of this can be attributed to the media, as well as what appears to be an attempt to defund and dismantle the public education system. The push to de-professionalize teaching, coupled with mandates and legislation alleging that we (public schools) teach divisive and inappropriate content, seems to create a sense of distrust between parents and schools. To combat these misconceptions, we are working on providing more family engagement activities, flooding our social media with positive promotions, utilizing our parent communication portal to provide immediate releases when situations arise, and overall, just learning to brand and craft who we want to be as a district, which includes building a warm, welcoming and collaborative culture.


What is your main area of focus for this year?


Ten years ago, my first answer would have been to bolster student achievement. Of course, that will always be a main area of focus. Today, however, my biggest focus is the safety and security of our students. Not just the physical, but their mental well-being as well. Every school begins each day with four rounds of box-breathing and a “gut-check” for students. This doesn’t take long, but it allows our teachers to gauge where each student is and who might need some extra care before diving into the curriculum. Really, just applying Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, because we all know that they can’t learn if their basic needs haven’t been met. In addition, each class participates in “Wellness Wednesdays”. Here our teachers are using community circles to apply resiliency standards and work on building classroom communities. The idea is that students are more likely to make good choices and be less reactive in classrooms where clearly established norms have been created and relationships have been built.


Last year was the first year of the Early Childhood Education (ECE) program in Taylor; describe how this program is working, and the benefits to Taylor County Schools.


This program is growing, and our students and teachers are seeing a dual benefit. Our younger students are thrilled to have a high school student take interest in them and help them develop their skills. At the same time, these tutors are learning the value of mentorship, and hopefully, beginning to consider this as a future career option for themselves.


Besides the ECE program, how are you working to recruit and retain staff?


We are continuing to collaborate with colleges, offering tuition reimbursement, exploring apprenticeship programs, and working with current paraprofessionals to continue their education. In addition, we offer child-care incentives, and always explore creative ways to bolster teacher-pay.


What do you think is the most important skill for a superintendent to develop?


I would have to say that good communication skills are at the top of the list. Being an effective communicator takes a lot of practice and ensuring that what is perceived is what was intended can be tricky sometimes.


What do you most want students to remember from their time in school?


The overall experience, the good and bad times, because it is the totality of these experiences that will ultimately shape who they become.


Outside of being a superintendent, what is something that your colleagues may not know about you that you would like to share.


I absolutely love my family. My husband and I are celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary this year. Together we have 4 daughters, two that are engaged, and one that is married and expecting our first grandchild in just a few weeks!


 Individual you admire most for their positive impact on public education:


My 5th grade teacher, Mrs. Croft. She instilled in each of her students that we were all loved, valued, and really could do anything we wanted, if we were willing to work for it.

Favorite quote:

“You can’t be old and wise without being young and foolish”

New Requirements Imposed on

District Schools

By Brian Moore, FADSS General Counsel

This week, the State Board of Education (SBE) met for the third time this school year. It adopted 23 new or amended rules in Chapter 6A, F.A.C., bringing the total number of new or amended 6A rules this school year to more than 75 already. This comes after nearly 80 new or amended rules were adopted during the previous two school years as well. This week, the SBE adopted new cut scores for standardized tests, new provisions for school grades, a standardized form for book objections, rules and forms for the new Charter School Review Commission, and a new rule for teacher apprenticeship programs, to name just a few.

You can keep track of recently adopted new rules by reviewing recent SBE meeting agendas here: October 18, 2023; August 23, 2023; and July 19, 2023Then, for rules still in development, including upcoming rule development workshops, the DOE maintains a website here. 

In addition to all the new rules, districts are also implementing all the new legislative requirements following the 2023 legislative session. Last week, the Department of Education (DOE) produced a summary of most of the new requirements imposed on districts as a result of new laws passed in 2023. This report can be accessed from the DOE Legislative Affairs Office here. This site includes similar reports for legislation enacted since 2018.

Thus, in addition to the 77 new 6A rules already adopted this year, the DOE listed 124 new requirements imposed by 35 new laws, which does not include some of the laws that are not specifically aimed at public schools (e.g., prohibiting dues deductions for public employee organizations). By comparison, there were 70 new statutory requirements, and 80 rule adoptions, during the 2022-23 school year, and 74 statutory requirements and 76 new rules in 2021-22. This means we have already seen a 33% increase in the number of new requirements this year, and we still have almost three-fourths of the school year left.

Obviously, this avalanche of new requirements imposed on district schools year after year demonstrates the importance of this year’s efforts to deregulate public schools so that a parent’s choice to send his or her child to a district school is respected as much as the decision of parents who select other choice options. 

At its meeting this week, the SBE delegated its authority to the Commissioner to submit the DOE’s recommendations for deregulation to the Governor and Legislature by November 1, 2023. All eyes will be looking at that report and the subsequent legislative committee meetings that will be held in the weeks that follow.

FADSS Leadership Training Highlights

By Katrina Figgett, FADSS Director of Training

Last week saw a group of district leaders meet in Tampa for a focused training on district fundamentals. Though many of the subjects were heavy, our presenters worked hard to keep the tone light while being informative, for example, the game of Ethics and Sunshine Law Jeopardy led to some unorthodox betting on the final answer!

In addition to Ethics and Sunshine Law, day one featured presentations on finance, HR and collective bargaining and a panel of superintendents from around the state to share their approaches to Board Relations; the importance of communication, and making sure all have the same information, cannot be overstated.

Day two saw presentations on school statutes and rules, the basics of debt and debt-like instruments, communication around local ballot referenda, and a school safety update. Any superintendent who did not attend but would like access to the presentations please contact Katrina Figgett.  

This was the first time we have held this particular training, and it was very well received by attendees, we look forward to holding more trainings in this type of format in the future.  

What Florida education leaders said about the training:

"This training was so appreciated. Truly touched on things that you might not even know you don't know. Also appreciated the small group size and opportunity to ask questions and talk things through with the presenters and colleagues. 10/10 recommend!

-- Alicia Beshears, Superintendent, Taylor County

“ Thank you again for the great training FADSS provided to us last week. I really appreciated the Finance and HR/Collective Bargaining Sessions. Both sessions enhanced my understanding of both areas and provided some insights I could take back to my district. I also greatly appreciated the School Statute and Rule Session due to the avalanche of rules that keep rolling towards us.” 

– Mike Ripplinger, Superintendent, Union County

“The Leadership Training provided by FADSS was invaluable. Each presentation was engaging with practical strategies to use back in our districts. The opportunity to network with other leaders and have conversations about current issues within our own districts was extremely important. I also wanted to thank the Superintendent panel for providing their experience and expertise during the panel discussion.” 

- Dr. Scott Hebert, Assistant Superintendent of School Operations, Citrus County 


Orange County Schools Superintendent Dr. Vazquez Named to 50 Most Powerful People List by Orlando Magazine

OCPS Superintendent Dr. Maria Vazquez was recently named to the 50 Most Powerful People by Orlando Magazine in Education.

The 50 Most Powerful People 2023 is a list of influential people in Orlando, including educators, public servants, ambassadors of good will and philanthropists, as well as leaders in business, the arts, tourism, sports, and the LGBTQ community.

Congratulations Dr. Vazquez!

Read the full feature on Dr. Vazquez HERE.

American School District Panel Survey Reports


Every year districts across the U.S. (including in Florida), take part in the American School District Panel (ASDP). Led by the non-profit, non-partisan RAND Corporation, the ASDP gives voice to district leaders. The answers provided influence the educational investments of Foundations and are covered in The New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, The 74, Education Week, and other outlets.


Two reports based on the spring 2023 findings, are now available on the ASDP Publications Page. The first report, Politics Tops the Reasons Superintendents Are Stressed, finds that 79% of superintendents reported that their jobs were often or always stressful, however, most said that their jobs are worth the stress. The second report, Districts’ Goals and Challenges to Improving Math Achievement, continues the data collection surrounding mathematics that RAND has been undertaking since 2020, with this particular survey focused on the conditions and components that make up a coherent mathematics instructional system. The recruitment and retention of highly qualified mathematics teachers was cited by many as a barrier to reaching their mathematics goals.


The next RAND ASDP is just launching and will cover staffing, and summer 2023 programs, as well as continuing to look at mathematics instruction.  

Thank you to FADSS 2023 - 2024

Annual Business Partners

Download the FADSS 2023-2024 Annual Business Partner Directory HERE
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