As if it were scripted, Florida’s State Board of Education provided a golden illustration at yesterday’s meeting – the last for Board Vice Chair John Padget – of why Padget’s departure from the Board will make the campaign to improve STEM career preparation in the state a little tougher.
A representative of the FLDOE’s direct support organization gave a presentation about a new website that is intended to share information about the state’s K-20 education opportunities with parents – and to do so in the most positive possible light. Padget, whose bachelor’s degree is in engineering, asked some polite questions about the sources of funding and information sources. Then he said this:
So last week I was in a meeting in Monroe [County] for the Future Physicists of Florida….I give credit to my friends at FSU who flew down for the meeting…This was 185 8th graders who were selected or nominated by their math and science teachers…What my friends at FSU have taught me is that course selections starting in 8th and 9th grade are critical to either opening doors or closing doors to high wage high need and high demand jobs….Nobody does expect all those kids to become physicists, but pointing out that if they take rigorous courses in 8th grade and thereafter, all doors are open. And when they get to university, doors will not be closed….Since this [the website being presented] is so much aimed both at students and parents…if you could find a way to convey that somehow.
The presenter found a way not to respond to Padget’s request. Then the Board Chair Marva Johnson, a public relations professional, spoke up, making it clear that the intent of the new website was not to challenge students and parents, but instead to supplement the SBOE’s public relations strategy.
With that, Padget rode off into the Board sunset. His work in Monroe County to help students from disadvantaged backgrounds and to promote K-12 computing education will continue.
Meanwhile, there will be one less strong voice insisting that Florida’s educational reach should exceed its grasp.