What are the most important issues for the next Leon County Superintendent of Schools to address?
No matter what you’ve heard from the candidates about testing and standards (“NO COMMON CORE IN LEON COUNTY SCHOOLS!!”) it doesn’t matter, because legislators and State Board of Education members make those decisions.
As for FBI investigations and whistleblowers? Well, I have to leave that to the FBI and the lawyers.
The two issues that our next Superintendent has to be strong on are these: equity and STEM.
The equity issue is not really any worse in Leon County than it is in most districts, but there are still sizable disparities in student achievement between district schools in affluent and disadvantaged neighborhoods. The primary remedy for this gap is to attract more great teachers to schools in disadvantaged neighborhoods, and the next superintendent needs to understand this issue deeply and make a commitment to addressing it.
As for science and math education (STEM): It may be that Leon County is better than most Florida districts, but that is a pretty low bar. By national standards, Leon County is average in high school math and science. And the district still falls far behind Florida’s science and math superpowers – Brevard and Seminole Counties. And as for Brevard and Seminole – they would be average in Massachusetts. Leon County’s kids have a lifetime of rigorous competition ahead of them, and most of them are not as prepared as they should be. The district must do better. And how about this? No high school in Leon County offered AP Computer Science last year.
Leon County needs a superintendent who is fully committed to addressing both equity and improving STEM education.
So which of the candidates is prepared to take these issues on at an expert level? I looked through the web sites of the candidates who have web sites (and Forrest Van Camp’s Facebook page). I didn’t find the word “science” once. Nor “STEM” (except as the last syllable in “system”). And as for the equity issue: Jackie Pons has had his chance to address this. Rocky probably cares, but he is a bit weaker than the others on the science issue (despite having married a science teacher).
The other declared candidates? Uh, no.
So this is what I’m going to do: On Election Day in November, I’m going to write in the name of Zondra Clayton, the star teacher at Godby High School who has turned that school – which is on the more challenging end of the socioeconomic spectrum – into a hothouse for physics. Nobody in Leon County understands the nexus of equity and STEM career preparation better than Zondra. In fact, nobody is close.
So that’s it: The Official Bridge to Tomorrow Endorsement for Leon County Superintendent of Schools goes to Zondra Clayton.