In April, Marion County’s superintendent Heidi Maier announced that 23 schools in the county would get new principals for the upcoming academic year. As the school year has wrapped up, new principals were not the only changes Maier brought to the district in her first year as superintendent.
Maier, who faced two write-in candidates in the general election last November, is the county’s first female superintendent since 1928.
In February, Maier alerted principals that some previously required local student assessments would be suspended. Assessments that are no longer be required include AIMSweb Benchmarks, ELA and Math Learning Checks, Number Fluency Checks.
“There were many irrelevant tests that were taking place so our goal is to make sure our students are learning and not testing,” said Kelly King, chair of the Marion County School Board.
Along with a decrease in testing, Maier is focused on local high schoolers being “college ready” by the time they graduate. The Marion Technical Institute already has a general logistics academy as part of its curriculum, but new programs are coming to new other high schools.
“This year, I’m really excited that we are going to be starting the logistics program because of all the new industry that we have in town,” Maier said. “Federal Express, AutoZone, Chewy…we are going to be able to support that and give our kids lots of opportunities,”
Lake Weir and West Port High Schools will both have new logistics programs next year. Maier said she wants to make sure graduates either meet local workforce needs or are ready for a college education.
“We are going to be enhancing what is already existing so we have students who may not choose to go to college or who instead go right into the workforce, so we are going to give them what they need to achieve their goals,” Maier said.
Along with the new logistics programs, 23 schools will have new principals for the 2017-2018 academic year. The county reviewed more than 150 candidates for these openings. Of the 23 new principals starting July 1, ten are first time principals.
Maier said her goal was to find the best fit for each candidate by matching their individual strengths to the school’s needs.
Starting in August, every elementary school will also have a mandatory 20 minutes of recess.
“I think that recess will help our elementary students learn more, learn better,” Maier said. “Which will then turn into better test scores, better school grades and we’ll just move the district forward that way.”