FADSS Enewsletter
Message from FADSS CEO Bill Montford
Camaraderie and Collaboration Are Key Moving Forward
 
As we begin the 2021-2022 school year, I want to take a moment to reflect upon the tremendous challenges we have encountered – and successes we have shared – in public education.
 
I can say with all honestly that in my more than 50 years in public education, I could not be prouder of Florida district school superintendents and their staff. The tremendous job each of you and your teams have done since March 2020 to ensure that Florida public education students continue to receive a quality education during this on-going crisis has been nothing short of spectacular!
 
Throughout all the challenges and successes, it has been gratifying to see the camaraderie and sharing of information and resources among superintendents and across school districts. This genuine collaboration and cooperation are crucial as we continue to navigate the opportunities and obstacles side-by-side and hand-in-hand. 
 
To that point, FADSS upcoming 2021 Fall Leadership Conference set for Sept. 22-24, 2021 will focus on academic acceleration, while further strengthening superintendent connections, and providing an opportunity to collaborate with colleagues from across the state.  
 
I am also excited to share the news that for the first time in FADSS history, we will be expanding participation in FADSS Fall Leadership Conference. At the direction of FADSS President Himmel and the Board of Directors, each superintendent can choose to register one member of their leadership team to participate in FADSS Fall Conference. Based on the content and programing of the Fall Conference, this individual should be someone who understands the academic challenges as well as the financial resources needed to accelerate the academic success of all students, however the decision is solely at your discretion.
 
While I know there are still many unanswered questions and uncertainty as we move forward, please know that we will continue to work together to strengthen Florida’s public schools!
 
Thank you again for everything you, your administrators, your teachers, and all school staff are doing for Florida’s students, their families, and your communities!

Yours in Education,
 
Bill Montford

"With the new day comes new strengths and new thoughts."
- Eleanor Roosevelt
Superintendent Spotlight:
Up Close with Pasco County Schools
Superintendent Kurt Browning
When you were first elected as Pasco County Schools Superintendent in August 2012 you came to the position in what some would consider “unconventional” as your experience was outside of the public education realm. Prior to seeking the superintendency, you served as Florida’s Secretary of State under both Governor Rick Scott and Governor Charlie Crist and serving 27 years as Pasco County School Supervisor of Elections prior to your appointment to Secretary of State. 

How did your public service prior to being elected help prepare you for the job of being a Florida public school district superintendent?  
Certainly, my prior work experience helped me navigate the political side of being a superintendent. That said, I really don’t think that anyone can be totally prepared to deal with the issues that face superintendents in today’s climate. My “secret” to the successes I have had was to surround myself with highly competent people that deeply believe in the mission of the organization and turn them loose. You hold people accountable for their actions while coaching and counseling to ensure the organization is moving forward. As I like to say, “I may not be an educator by birth” but I am managing a $1.5 billion organization that has as its mission to provide a world-class education to each child. My team is a high performing team that is committed to the students and families of our district.

What was the impetus that led you to pursue being a public school superintendent? 
I was very concerned about the direction of my district, the one that I had graduated from, as well as my family. I knew we could do better. Some of my friends had approached me with the idea of running and at first, I rejected it. It wasn’t until I was convinced that I, along with others, could make a positive difference in the lives of our kids that I committed myself to the task.
 
You have said on more than one occasion that “being a public school superintendent is the most challenging job you have ever had.” With that thought in mind:
 
a.  What is it that compels you to continue serving as a superintendent knowing full well the challenges and frustrations that come with the job?
Singularly, the difference you can have on a student’s life. Providing opportunities, within the system, for students to achieve something that they may have thought was not possible. Even during the “tough” times, I always come back to why I am here. Since becoming superintendent, we have expanded the academic choices that all students have, in elementary and secondary, to become better prepared to meet the challenges of a really tough world.
 
b.  What changes would you like to see that could assist superintendents in being able to more effectively and efficiently run a school district? 
Superintendents need to always remember that they are the instructional leaders of their districts. It’s important to make sure the lights and AC are one and the buses are running on time, but your priority must be the academic performance of each student. Are the resources being provided to your teachers for them to be successful? Are you providing high quality instructional materials in each classroom? Are you creating an engaging learning environment where students are supported and encouraged to try new things? These are the things that need to be the priority of each superintendent.
 
What do you feel is the most challenging barrier at this time in meeting the educational needs of students in your district?
Certainly, COVID has had such a negative impact on student learning over the last 18 months. We need to stay keenly focused on how we are going to catch kids up while at the same time, moving the academic needle forward. Funding is always a challenge. There are so many things that we could do better if the funding was available to our teachers and students.
 
What do you feel is the most pressing issue facing public education as a whole? 
I have always said that public K-12 cannot educate kids on their own. I am a strong believer that community engagement is critical in achieving the academic results that we tirelessly work for every day. Engaging parents in the day-to-day education paramount. Engaging our business stakeholders to support public education is beneficial not only for our schools but the business community as well. Our students are our future workforce.  
 
What is an innovative/impactful initiative in your school district that you are most proud of during your tenure as a superintendent? 
I am so proud of the Pasco County School District. There are several initiatives that we have undertaken that have had profound impacts on our students. First, expanding Cambridge and IB programs throughout our district in every grade level. This initiative has provided opportunities that most of our students would not have had access to before becoming superintendent. Second, our work with Equal Opportunity Schools in removing barriers to students wanting to attempt higher rigor coursework. We have been so successful in this initiative that College Board named the Pasco District as their Large District of the Year in 2020. These initiatives have provided equitable opportunities for all our students.
 
If you had the ability to change one thing in the realm of public education, what would that be?
A greater understanding of parents and legislative leaders of the challenges of our public K-12 system. There has been so much placed on public K-12 today that it oftentimes seems that we are trying to slay the giant with a table knife.

Outside of being a superintendent, what is something that your colleagues may not know about you that you would like to share.  
I love gardening and my beekeeping. I have a peach orchard with about 1600 trees that keeps me pretty busy. Being outdoors working in my yard and garden is my “happy place.” It’s where I go to release the daily pressures of being a superintendent. I also like to “run.” I have completed at least five half marathons. I actually completed the Disney Dopey Challenge in 2019 by running a 5K, 10K, half marathon and a full marathon in one weekend. Planning to do it again in January 2022.
Getting to Know Superintendent Browning

Favorite quote:

My late friend, Brian Dassler, once said:
"Bite off more than you can chew. 
That is where the learning and growth is found.”

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

So many come to mind. I think back to the teachers that invested in my life and am overwhelmed at the impact that they had so many years ago. Today, at the risk of sounding like I’m “sucking up,” I know that Senator Montford has so positively impacted our way of work. Maybe not for getting things through the legislature but for the things that he was able to change or prevent from further eroding what we hold so dear. He understands local education having served as a teacher, principal, and superintendent.

Book you are currently or recently finished reading:
 
While serving as Florida’s Secretary of State, I had the opportunity to read “A Land Remembered” by Patrick Smith. I have a great love for the State of Florida and this book is a story about the struggles of a pioneering family as they settle this state in the early 1800s. I would highly recommend this book for superintendents and the students they serve.
PCS's Summer Food Service program provided free meals to students throughout the summer & Supt. Browning was a regular worker alongside his staff.

All smiles and medal in hand after finishing one of his first Disney 1/2 marathons with his son in 2017.
That smile on Supt. Browning's face is not just genuine, it a reflection of his sincere passion and commitment to serving the children of Pasco County Public Schools.
FADSS 2021 Fall Leadership Conference
FADSS is pleased to offer our first in-person FADSS conference since January 2020. It will be great to have superintendents back together to learn from each other and develop innovative strategies to address the challenges of the 2021-22 school year. 
 
The conference will focus on leading districts through COVID recovery to academic acceleration. It will include strategies to remediate learning loss and move to acceleration as well as strategies to effectively use federal funds and other resources to support these efforts. The conference agenda will include sessions for both superintendents and district administrators to participate together as well as separate sessions for superintendents and separate sessions for district administrators.  Also, we are working to make the session on federal funding available virtually through Zoom for Finance Officers so they can participate as well from the district office.
 
For the first time in FADSS history, participation in a FADSS in-person conference will be expanded.  Superintendents are encouraged to select one member of their district leadership team to participate in the conference. It will be a great opportunity for district leadership team members to learn beside superintendents as well as learn from and collaborate with administrators from other districts. 

Based on the conference agenda, we recommend that superintendents select someone who understands the academic challenges as well as the financial resources needed to address the challenges related to accelerating academic success of all. 
 
Districts should have received an email from FADSS with the registration link, which is used to register both the superintendent and the district administrator.
 
If a district needs that information again or has any questions about the conference, please contact DIann Morell at dmorell@fadss.org.

ICYMI: Superintendents in the Limelight
Collier Superintendent Kamela Patton named Naples Daily News Outstanding Citizen of the Year
Source: Naples Daily News | August 5, 2021

The award honors “a deserving resident who has made significant impacts, perhaps community changing, for Collier County.”

In her more than a decade as superintendent, Patton has overseen growth at the district, including jumps in state rankings and the high school graduation rate.

What a great tribute to an exceptional superintendent and a positive affirmation that public schools truly are the cornerstone of their communities!

Congratulations Dr. Patton!

Access the full article HERE.

“I was really shocked last Friday that I was actually speechless. Imagine that," Patton said upon accepting the award. “But it's because I know the history of this award, I've seen it presented so many times. It’s really a recognition that’s widespread for everybody that’s in this room and everybody that’s involved in Collier County Public Schools.”
How a superintendent shattered the status quo to rev up graduation rates

Source: Matt Zalaznick  | DistrictAdministration.com | August 4, 2021

Putnam County Schools Superintendent Rick Surrency was featured in a national magazine highlighting the districts remarkable increase in graduation rates and their strategy that enabled them to make it happen.

Access the full article HERE.

Putnam County Schools' graduation rate has soared to 90% from 55% during Rick Surrency's superintendency.
Orange County Schools Superintendent Dr. Barbara Jenkins takes the helm of the Council of Great City Schools.
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!
Through the Scientist in Every Florida School Program (SEFS), K-12 STEM teachers can bring authentic and novel science experiences into their classrooms – for free. The SEFS program provides high-quality professional development workshops for teachers focused on Florida’s air, water, land, and life (Earth systems) and the environmental future of our State. It also is the first of its kind to match teachers with working researchers who can visit classrooms, collaborate on lesson plans based on state standards, and serve as role models for the next generation of Floridians. 
 
The program is simple — any K-12 public-school teacher in Florida can request a scientist who fits in with their lesson planning and the SEFS team takes it from there. So far, the program has coordinated more than 2,000 scientist visits to classrooms in about 500 public schools throughout Florida, and has reached tens of thousands of Florida’s K-12 students.
 
Click here to learn more about SEFS.
FADSS 2021 - 2022 Annual Business Partners
Florida Association of District School Superintendents
208 South Monroe Street
Tallahassee, FL 32301
850.577.5784