Alachua County Holds Second Public Forum In School Superintendent Search

By on November 8th, 2013
Alachua County residents discussed at a public forum Thursday night what they saw as the major challenges the next superintendent of Alachua County Public Schools will face at Metcalfe Elementary School.

Amber Dawson / WUFT News

Alachua County residents gather at a public forum Thursday night at Metcalfe Elementary School.

School board members, local principals, teachers, parents and many other community members came together at Metcalfe Elementary School Thursday night to discuss new ideas and expectations they have for the next superintendent of Alachua County Public Schools.

The forum is the second in a series of three that are being moderated by Sandy Hollinger, retired deputy superintendent, and which are being conducted to gain community insight on what qualities are the most important in the new Superintendent.

This is the first step in finding the next superintendent and has to be completed before the advertisement of the position is announced nationally, Hollinger said.

Community members agreed strengths in the community such as the one-meal tax and the abundance of professional schools should draw potential national candidates to Alachua county, but they highlighted many challenges the next superintendent will face. when he or she relocates to Alachua county that were not mentioned in the previous forum.

While one community member said the new superintendent will need to work on mobility within the district, since those students switching schools the most are those who need the most stability, others mentioned poverty within the school system and more specifically, great disparities between the schools in terms of poverty.

Unlike in the first forum when guests were asked to choose the three most important categories the next superintendent will need to focus on, guests were asked to pick one category, which was overwhelmingly the importance of educational programs. Equal and successful educational programs across the district were a hallmark of the forum.

Courtney S. Gilmore attended and said she agreed with other community members on the importance of education.

“Education is connected to many different things, and different educational opportunities can lead to different trajectories for a student,” she said.

Gilmore said putting the forums in different schools throughout the community made it easier for parents who don’t have transportation, and since Metcalfe Elementary School is in the center of a neighborhood, it was easier for more citizens to come out and get their voices heard.

“Lives are changed because of education, so it’s really important to get more community members involved,” she said.

Gilmore said though parents play a large role in the education of future generations, they cannot be solely relied upon.

The next superintendent should be someone in tune with their surrounding community, and more specifically low-income families, because of the school-to-prison pipeline, she said.

“I don’t doubt they will find someone with all the right qualities, but we need someone who can connect with the challenges,” she said.

Members of the community unable to attend the forums can complete an online survey and let the school board know what qualities they are looking for in the next Superintendent, said Jackie Johnson, spokeswoman for Alachua County Public Schools.

The survey consists of a list of 20 priorities from which community members are asked to choose ten that best reflect their most important priorities for the new superintendent.

The survey is open until the early morning of Nov. 13, so the results can be compiled and a report on findings can be drafted, Johnson said.

Hollinger said the advertisement for the superintendent position will be out in early January, and the next superintendent will be tentatively selected on or before July 1, 2014.

The third forum is Nov. 12 at Irby Elementary School and will begin at 6:30 p.m.

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