FADSS Enewsletter
 “A ship is always safe at shore, but that is not what it’s built for”.
                                                                                                  Albert Einstein
Superintendent Spotlight:
Volusia County Schools Superintendent
Dr. Carmen Balgobin
You boast an impressive 23-year career in public education with an extensive background in both instructional and operational leadership having started as a foreign language teacher at Evans High School in Orange County Public Schools (your alma mater), then advancing to several district-level jobs in multi-lingual education, curriculum and instruction, and exceptional student education; moving on to school transformation work at as an assistant principal, principal and a master principal; before being put in charge of all 18 transformation schools in Orange County Public Schools. You then served served two years at Osceola County Schools overseeing all 32 of its charter schools, home education, and Osceola virtual, before taking the job as Deputy Superintendent in Volusia County Schools in January 2020.

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

The most rewarding position I have held is that of being building principal. As a principal, I was able to create a culture that focused on transformational leadership and positive culture that impacted the lives of the students, staff, and the entire community. Being able to see firsthand how my vision as a leader influenced how transforming a school impacts a community, has truly been life changing as an educator.
You officially took the helm as Superintendent for Volusia County Schools (VCS) on July 1, 2022; however, you served as interim superintendent from July 2020 until February 2021, leading VCS through the COVID pandemic.  
How did the experience of serving as Interim Superintendent influence your approach to the superintendency?

As an Interim Superintendent, leading a district through a global pandemic, I had to work closely and efficiently with all stakeholders to meet the needs of our community. This gave me an opportunity to truly experience the heart of Volusia County. This experience afforded me the background knowledge needed to officially take the helm as Superintendent of Volusia County Schools.

You have shared about your experience as an ESOL student, after your family moved to the United States from Venezuela when you were 16. How did that experience shape your experience as an educational leader?

As an ESOL student, I learned about determination and persistence. At a young age, my parents instilled in me that education is the great equalizer. Because of this, I believe that every student regardless of their ethnicity, socio-economic background, and/ or pre-disposed barriers, should be afforded the opportunity to be truly successful. Personally, using an individualized approach for assessing student’s strengths and opportunities for growth, ensuring that wrap-around services meet these needs, and monitoring at the school and district-based levels are key in helping improve outcomes for all students.

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

As Superintendent, I am most proud of how my team is creating College and Career Technical pathways beginning at the middle school level. For the first time, Volusia County Schools have opened the first Dual Language Program where students develop bilingualism and biliteracy in both English and Spanish. Next year, this program will be expanded and we will be opening Foreign Language French Academies at select elementary schools. In addition, we have formed strategic business partnerships to offer our students internship opportunities that aligns with their program of studies.

According to the Florida Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents you are the state’s first Hispanic female superintendent. What does this incredible milestone mean to you?

As Volusia County’s first Hispanic Superintendent of Schools I want to be an inspiration for anyone that has immigrated to the states. With hard work, determination, and commitment, any person regardless of where they come from can succeed.

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

I feel that the most challenging barrier at this time to meet the needs of my students in Volusia County Schools is mitigating the learning gap. Having a support system in place and being very intentional about students that have experienced an instructional gap is just as important as providing for students who need to be accelerated. As a result of Covid 19, unfortunately, we see so many more students who have been affected by this learning gap.
What do you feel is the most pressing issue facing public education as a whole?
The most pressing issue facing public education as a whole is the challenge of finding qualified individuals with a vested interest to serve in public education.

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

I enjoy traveling and experiencing different cultures, foods, and traditions.

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

The individual I admire the most for their positive impact on public education is Mary Jane McLeod Bethune. She devoted her life to ensure the right to education and freedom from discrimination. A true trailblazer in education.

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

If I had to choose an animal that best represents me, I would have to say a Bear because they are known for their strength, courage, protection, nobility, and patience.

Any additional comments & thoughts you would like to share?

As a part of FADSS, I am grateful of the support and the level of camaraderie that exists among the members and organization.
Visiting with students and teachers is not only a priority for Dr. Balgobin, she will tell you it is one of the highlights of being a Superintendent!
Favorite quote:
“A sign of a good leader is not how many followers you have, but how many leaders you create.”
– Mahatma Gandhi

Book you are currently or recently finished reading:
 Connecting the Dots by Shannon K. Buerk
Message from FADSS CEO
Superintendents Appreciate Student FTE Survey Flexibility by Commissioner Diaz

As most districts across our state are back to full operations post-Hurricane Ian, I want to acknowledge and thank Florida Department of Education (DOE) Commissioner Manny Diaz and his staff for their quick action in providing relief for Hurricane Ian-impacted school districts related to October student counts.

As you know, the DOE conducts the October student survey so each district’s mid-year FEFP funding can be adjusted to accurately reflect actual student enrollment rather than projected enrollments. The flexibility on the October student survey dates provided by DOE helps to ensure that districts are not penalized during a period of response and recovery. The department’s quick response in announcing the student count flexibility demonstrates the commitment of Commissioner Diaz to ensuring that a school district’s funding is not incorrectly reported due to a temporary disruption in student attendance.

“As district leaders and their teams work around the clock to take care of their communities and reopen schools in the wake of Hurricane Ian, they should not fear losing state education funding due to the storm,” said Commissioner Manny Diaz, Jr. “Allowing affected districts to base their student reporting on attendance prior to the hurricane will ensure districts are not negatively impacted any further.”
FADSS and Florida superintendents are fortunate to have such dedicated education advocates as Commissioner Diaz and his leadership team at the helm of DOE. FADSS looks forward to a continued positive working relationship with DOE as we head into 2023!

Yours in Education,

Bill Montford
District Highlight:
Character Counts in St. Johns County Schools!

The St. Johns County School District (SJCSD) was recently recognized by The Robert D. and Billie Ray Center at Drake University as a CHARACTER COUNTS! Exemplary School District. In 1998, the SJCSD, along with area businesses, youth organizations and civic groups, selected the national character education program of CHARACTER COUNTS! (CC!) as a countywide initiative to instill positive character traits in our young people.

CC! is a comprehensive, integrated, values-based School Improvement and Student Development System based on the Model Standards for Academic, Social Skills, and Character Development. CC! is based on the belief that there are enduring moral truths that distinguish right from wrong and define the essence of good character; these are encapsulated in The Six Pillars of Character - trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and citizenship. 

Within SJCSD, CC! is not viewed by school administrators, teachers, or staff as one more thing to focus on but instead, it is the base on which all other initiatives are built. SJCSD intentionally focuses on providing staff professional development and support because this is key to ensuring that CC! is foundational in our schools. With 43 schools, over 50,000 students and over 5,000 employees, we believe that in order to continue with the strong character culture that we have, training and professional development has to be a priority. Our team works diligently to ensure that CC! is woven into everything that our school district implements including Positive Behavior Intervention and Support, also known as PBIS, Link Crew, Where Everybody Belongs (W.E.B.), Capturing Kids Hearts, social skills, academics and so much more. 

At the elementary level, CC! is infused in teacher-led discussions, morning meetings/ announcements, school-wide behavior systems, and integrated instruction. Classroom teachers, school counselors, behavior coaches, and community partners, provide instruction in character education. Students are provided with recognition and rewards through various school-based programs designed to reinforce the value and intention of demonstrating the pillar of the month. Character education lessons in grades 6-12 include instruction taught throughout the students’ core and elective classes. Classroom teachers, student leaders, guidance counselors, deans, and community partners, provide instruction that includes, but is not limited to, direct instruction, videos, establishing school culture, clubs, and student leadership opportunities. 

In addition to the character standards, the CC! Steering Committee of St. Johns County is a big part of our district and is present in all our schools. Its vision is to create a sustainable culture through CC! where good character is infused in all facets of the community. The CC! Steering Committee also secures funding, provides grant opportunities, plans and hosts events such as the CHARACTER COUNTS! Community Partners Recognition, The American Youth Character Awards, The Six Pillar 6K/3K Run/Walk, The Character Cup, and Pillar Patrol.
We are proud to have received the Character Counts Exemplary Status as it reaffirms that we are putting the character development of our students, staff, and community at the forefront. This designation also keeps us focused on our mission to inspire good character and a passion for lifelong learning in all students, creating educated and caring contributors to the world.
In Times of Need
By Brian Moore, FADSS General Counsel
In the aftermath of Hurricane Ian superintendents and their district staff members have been reaching out to help affected districts and will continue to do so. Immediately following the storm, districts from all across the state sent teams of tradespeople, food service workers, maintenance crews, along with tools and supplies, to the most heavily-affected districts. 

Having workers knowledgeable about school operations and storm recovery procedures on site to do the work, makes the task of clearing a school to reopen following a major catastrophic event more easily and quickly accomplished.

Bill Husfelt, FADSS’s President and Bay County Schools’ Superintendent, and Fred Heid, Polk County Schools’ Superintendent, spoke at the State Board of Education (SBE) Meeting in Orlando on October 19, 2022. They talked about the disproportionate burden school districts carry during hurricanes, particularly when it comes to providing shelter for their residents. In these types of emergency situations schools in any area that may potentially be affected have to cease operations and prepare to open as shelters well before the storm’s first effects may be felt, and district staff members have to leave their homes and families to operate these shelters. They also stressed the tremendous and long-term emotional toll these events have on students, staff, and the community at large. When schools do reopen, for many, it is not a “return to normalcy”; instead, it represents the start of a new normal and a marathon of small steps to get back to something resembling normalcy as they once knew it.

Following the SBE meeting, Bill Husfelt and FADSS General Counsel Brian Moore, visited with superintendents and various staff members in Sarasota, Charlotte, and Lee Counties. Each of these counties is still continuing to reopen schools. On Friday, October 21, Husfelt, Moore, and several members from Bay County’s executive cabinet met with the six district members of the Heartland Education Consortium, including Hardee and DeSoto Counties, in Lake Placid, Florida. The team from Bay County came to share their experiences following Hurricane Michael, which is still affecting them four years later. This visit to Heartland followed multiple phone and video conferences the Bay County team members have participated in over the last three weeks with these and other Southwest Florida districts, as well as districts all the way up to Volusia, as they all prepare for a similar long road to recovery.

Many districts across the state have more experience and expertise with the aftermath of major storms than they ever wished they had, but their commitment to the children and families of Florida and the outpouring of support they demonstrate to each other is a truly bright spot in these times of need.
FADSS President and Bay County Schools Superintendent Bill Husfelt and FADSS General Counsel Brian Moore visited Charlotte and Lee County School Districts.
Bill Husfelt and Brian Moore with Lee County Schools (LCS) Superintendent Dr. Christopher Bernier and LCS Chief of Staff Mike Ramirez.
Bill Husfelt and Brian Moore
with Charlotte County Schools Superintendent Steve Dionisio.

Husfelt, Moore, and several members from Bay County’s executive cabinet met with the six district members of the Heartland Education Consortium, including Hardee and DeSoto Counties, in Lake Placid, Florida to share hurricane relief resources, information and personal lessons learned from Hurricane Michael.
ICYMI: DotCom Therapy Offers One Year Free Subscription to Virtual Library
Recognizing that the road to recovery can be unknown following a crisis like Hurricane Ian, DotCom Therapy is donating a year subscription to their Dotcom Academy to any Florida school district. The company specializes in virtual speech therapy, occupational therapy, or any mental health services by licensed and certified providers.

The DotAcademy is a virtual library featuring video training, printable resources, and activity guides created by our licensed and certified providers on topics including mental health, speech and language and occupational therapy.

Learn more about DotCom Therapy and how to access the DotAcademy via this link or contact Ashleigh at 719.200.1653.
Looking Towards the Spring Leadership Conference
By Katrina Figgett, FADSS Director of Training
Though we have yet to pass Thanksgiving, the FSBA |FADSS Joint Conference, and the Winter Holidays; 2023 and the FADSS Spring Leadership Conference will be here before you know it!

We were looking forward to hearing from Dr. Sameer Hinduja at Fall Conference and luckily, he has been able to arrange his schedule to be with us in the Spring. Dr. Hinduja has presented to FADSS on previous occasions and is a Professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Florida Atlantic University, Co-Director of the Cyberbullying Research Center, and Faculty Associate at the Berkman Klein Center at Harvard University. Recognized internationally for his groundbreaking work on cyberbullying, sexting, and social media and gaming abuse, he has written seven books, and his work has been featured in venues that include CNN, NPR, the BBC, and The New York Times. He has also presented on cyberbullying at a Congressional Briefing on Capitol Hill, testified in front of the Attorney General and the Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, and Homeland Security, and served as a Fulbright Specialist Scholar at Dublin City University.

If you would like to learn more about Dr. Hinduja’s work a list of publications with abstract links is available as well as his keynote to FASS at the Mental Health Summit in December 2018 and handouts both for schools and parent use.

We hope to see you at Spring Conference to hear new research from Dr. Hinduja that will aid in keeping our students safe online.
FADSS 2022 - 2023 Annual Business Partners
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