FADSS Enewsletter
"To me the sole hope of human salvation lies in teaching."
- George Bernard Shaw
Superintendent Spotlight:
Osceola County Schools Superintendent
Dr. Debra Pace
You were appointed Superintendent for the School District of Osceola County (SDOC) in March 2016, bringing an extensive background in both instructional and operational leadership having served as Associate Superintendent for Human Resources Division for Brevard County Schools from 2011- 2016 and prior to this serving 25 years with the SDOC including Deputy Superintendent for Secondary, High School Principal, Assistant Principal, and teacher.

Of all the positions you have held in public education which has been the most rewarding and why?

I have loved all of my roles in education - teacher, school administrator, district leader - but I truly believe the role of high school principal is one of the most rewarding. Working with teachers, counselors, parents, and staff to support young people in their journey to find themselves and plan for their futures is both challenging and fun, and I never tire of graduation ceremonies. Now seeing the students I served at Poinciana and Harmony High Schools serving as successful adults in our community always touches my heart. This year, the Osceola Teacher of the Year and School Related Employee of the Year are both former graduates of Osceola County high schools, where I was the principal.
What led you to pursue being a public school superintendent?

My dear friend and mentor, Dr Mike Grego, played a major role in my professional career path. I was very satisfied as a high school principal, when Dr. Grego tapped me on the shoulder to become one of his deputy superintendents, supervising the work of middle and high school principals and supporting district operations in Facilities, Student Services, Information Technology, and Secondary Curriculum. He did a lot of side-by-side coaching, and he helped me see that I could and should do even more to create more opportunities for students and our community.

Diversity is embraced and celebrated at SDOC, where students represent 140 different countries, speak over 98 languages, and more than 17,000 students (about 25% of total student population ) participate in the districts English Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program. Despite the challenges in overcoming language barriers, SDOC’s high school graduation rate has risen to an all-time high of 91%.

What key initiatives has the district implemented that contribute to the continued increase in graduation rates for SDOC?
High school graduation is such an important milestone in a young person’s life - in many ways, it is the Golden Ticket, opening the door to so many other possibilities for a better life for the individual and his or her family. So we take an “all hands on deck” approach to ensuring our students earn a standard high school diploma before they leave us. From counselors and AP’s ensuring scheduling meets the needs of every student and social-emotional services are provided, to Principals monitoring and reporting the data in quarterly chats with the Assistant Superintendent, to teachers monitoring class performance, to our Multicultural Department engaging with parents in understanding graduation requirements and identifying how they can help their students achieve success, to implementation of a built-in intervention period at least 4 days a week at every high school, incorporating test-preparation strategies and practices in ELA and Intensive Reading classes, in-school administration of SAT and ACT for juniors and seniors, we have built a comprehensive approach with a clear focus on the prize: graduation for every student, and every student having a post-secondary plan to Enroll, Enlist, Employ, or Explore (the 4E’s). 

What is an innovative/impactful initiative in your school district that you are most proud of during your tenure as a superintendent?

We use a Delivery-Ed approach to developing, implementing, and monitoring our district strategic plan and school improvement plans, including monthly Stocktakes and bi-annual All Goals reports to the School Board and the community. This process ensures our strategic plan and school improvement plans are truly guiding the work and that we align district resources (money, people, and time) with the goals and priorities of the School Board and the needs of each school. This accountability process has been more important than ever during the pandemic. With so many distractions and so many unforeseen challenges, it would have been so easy to lose focus on our core mission. Stocktakes keep us true to our commitments to do the right work.

What do you feel is the most challenging barrier at this time in meeting the educational needs of students in your district?

The most significant challenge facing all school districts, in my mind, is the staffing shortage, across every position. The shortage of candidates entering the field of education is most concerning, as we know it is the highly qualified, caring teacher in the classroom who has the most impact on student learning. We are committing more resources to our teacher mentoring program to provide more support for new teachers, the majority of whom are coming from career fields other than education, to improve retention and stabilize our instructional workforce. 
If you had the ability to change one thing in the realm of public education – what would that be?

Increase the level of respect and appreciation for the profession of education and the amazingly dedicated individuals who show up every day for kids, even when it’s really hard. In the spring of 2020, there was such a high level of understanding and support from parents for the work of teachers and other school professionals, when schools were shut down and parents were carrying the load. I am saddened by recent events and conversations indicating we lost that positivity about public education.
Individual you admire most for their positive impact on public education:

Dr. Mike Grego, Superintendent of Pinellas County Schools

Mike has devoted over 40 years of his life to public education in Florida, and he has had an incredible impact at the national, state, and local levels. He has developed future leaders, and he has an unwavering commitment to doing the right work for ALL students. He is passionate, relentless, caring, and committed, and I admire the significant impact he’s made in previously under-served areas of Pinellas County, as well as his impact on state-level leadership decisions related to education. 

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

I’m learning to sail with my husband! I grew up on a ranch and have never been around boats, other than airboats, but I love being out on the water, and I love the quiet and peacefulness of sailing when it’s going well. It’s harder than it looks though!

If you had to choose an animal that your feel is most representative of you, what animal would that be and why?

A dolphin — I love the water, I love sunshine, I am nurturing, and I am fiercely protective of those I love.

Book you are currently or recently finished reading: Because of a Teacher: Stories of the Past to Inspire the Future of Education, written and curated by George Couros (2021) 
Favorite quote:

Cowardice asks the question — is it safe?
Vanity asks the question — is it popular?
Politics asks the question — is it expedient?
But conscience asks the question — is it right?

~ Dr. Martin Luther King
Osceola County School District showcased their data-driven "Stocktakes" process to other school districts as part of the FADSS/Impact Florida 'Districts for Impact' initiative in 2019 to support Superintendents' focus on supporting excellent instruction within their systems.

The Stocktake data process is a systematic way of monitoring strategies for improvement through routine examination of evidence, deliberation, and accountability. Learn more via this link: Learning to Empower Leaders through Data Stocktakes in Osceola Count
FADSS 2022 Spring Leadership Conference

FADSS 2022 Spring Leadership Conference – titled “Daring Leadership in Challenging Times” – kicks-off next week and I look forward to seeing everyone in Orlando. 

FADSS staff, along with a superintendent Design Team headed by FADSS President Sam Himmel, have been working diligently to plan a robust conference with a dynamic learning agenda to provide you with high-quality professional development, sharing of best practices, and substantive networking opportunities.

Previously, we featured Kim Strobel, education consultant and founder of Strobel Education who will be our opening speaker on how to attend to personal wellness. We are also fortunate to have Shayla Cannady joining us. Shayla is the assistant director of public relations for Orange County Public Schools and president of SUNSPRA. Shayla’s session will focus on strategic communications, utilizing effective stakeholder relationships, and crisis management.
From a district perspective, Osceola County Schools Superintendent Dr. Debra Pace and Pinellas County Schools Superintendent Dr. Michael Grego will facilitate a discussion on the use of ESSER funds and designing for sustainability. Putnam County Schools Superintendent Dr. Rick Surrency will talk about STEM programming that has moved Putnam school district graduation rates from below to above the state average over the last 5 years, with an even greater rate change in their turnaround schools.
In addition to round table discussions on key issues impacting school districts, FADSS Associate Executive Officer David Sikes and General Counsel Brian Moore will delve into recent legislative changes that will have statewide impacts on K-12 education. The Florida Department of Education (FDOE) will also be on hand to provide guidance and answer questions regarding implementation of new legislation and other issues impacting school districts.

Once again, FADSS will host our Business Partner Showcase designed to provide superintendents and district administrators an opportunity to meet with FADSS business partners to learn timely and relevant information related to the services and products they provide to Florida school districts. FADSS builds this networking segment into the agenda because it is a valuable part of the FADSS training. 

Your participation is crucial to ensure a successful showcase. Additionally, the revenue generated from our business partner program enables us to provide additional training and professional development for superintendents and has helped us keep membership dues at a steady rate without an increase in more than 12 years.

To learn more about the companies supporting FADSS, you can download a copy of FADSS Business Partner Digital Directory HERE.

Safe travels and I look forward to seeing you next week in Orlando!

Yours in Education,

Bill Montford
Blue Origin’s Club for the Future
Founded by commercial space company Blue Origin, Club for the Future is a non-profit foundation whose mission is to inspire future generations to pursue STEM-related career paths and to help invent the future of life in space.
A key initiative of the Club and its collaborators including STEM2 Hub, is the Postcards to Space program designed to engage students in thinking about the future of life in space and peak their interest in STEM-related career paths. Currently, Blue Origin alone has around 500 job vacancies in Florida and there are many others in space-related industries. The need for qualified workers in the burgeoning space-based economy will only continue to grow.
Several school districts in Florida have participated in the Postcards to Space program and to date over 100,000 postcards from Florida students have been sent to space and returned. The latest batch of postcards went up during the March 31 launch of Blue Origin’s New Shephard reusable suborbital rocket at Van Horn, Texas. The rocket carried postcards from several Florida school districts including 150 postcards from one Duval elementary school.
Invited guests to the launch included Putnam County Schools Superintendent Dr. Rick Surrency and FADSS Director of Training Katrina Figgett. In addition to viewing the launch, they also had the opportunity to tour the Blue Origin facility including the engine test sites and speak to some of the workers about their jobs and education backgrounds.
The experience of watching the launch of the Blue Origin spacecraft in person was beyond belief,” stated Surrency. “I am old enough to have watched the lunar landing in July 1969 on a black and white television. I had the same feeling today that we have entered a new age of space exploration. With new space experiences, students will have opportunities that will be beyond anything we can currently imagine. I am certainly honored to represent K-12 educators at the launch in Texas,” added Surrency.
FADSS is pleased to be collaborating with Blue Origin’s Club for the Future and STEM2Hub to provide a unique experience for Florida Superintendents at Blue Origin’s facility at Cape Canaveral in June. Stay tuned for more details and we look forward to seeing you at the Cape!   
In Case You Missed It
Florida schools ponder how a half-credit financial literacy course will fit into their schedule

Source: Gina Jordan | WFSU  | April 3, 2022

……First of all, let's make sure we've got enough teachers to teach it. Where does it fit into the schedule?” Montford asks. “Here's where the pinch really comes. When it gets to the school level, principals have to say, well, what will we not be teaching?”

Read the full article HERE.
Space Art Contest for K-5 Students

Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nuñez’s Florida Space Art Contest is open to all K-5 students in Florida. Students are encouraged to create an art piece inspired by the theme Florida is the Place for Space: Celebrating Florida’s Contributions to Space Travel and Exploration. This is an exciting opportunity for students to showcase their creativity and artistic talent while highlighting Florida’s iconic space coast, space travel, and exploration.

All entries must be received no later than 5:00 p.m. ET on Monday, April 25, 2022.
Detailed information about the contest rules/guidelines/entry form can be found by visiting: https://floridaspaceart.com/
The 74 Interview: Ed Finance Guru Marguerite Roza on Funding, Parental ‘Awakening’ and Being a Data Person in a Time of Pandemic ‘Panic’

Source: Linda Jacobson | The74Million.org  | February 14, 2022

Marguerite Roza is executive director of the Edunomics Lab at Georgetown University. A school finance expert, Roza advises districts on budget decisions, and has helped school leaders and the public understand regulations and the flexibility tied to the billions of dollars districts received in federal relief programs. In a January interview, she discussed those issues as well as concerns closer to home: how watching her daughter’s loneliness during lockdowns left her “scarred” and fighting to hold her tongue about COVID risks in the face of pandemic panic.

FADSS 2022 Spring Leadership Conference Business Partners
Be sure to follow FADSS on Twitter [@PublicSchoolSup] and tag FADSS in your district tweets so we can share the great stories and happenings in Florida public schools across our state!
Florida Association of District School Superintendents
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