Newly-minted Palm Beach, Florida School Superintendent Dr. Robert Avossa announced his 90-day plan to improve the district by putting teaching first.
The superintendent took the job just one week ago, but he already has big plans that he hopes will ensure the public school system moves forward. While he was in charge of public schools in Fulton County, Georgia, Avossa put his greatest focus on graduation and drop out rates. He said he would like to continue that focus in his new position.
The graduation rate for Palm Beach schools was 78% for the 2013-14 school year, up from 74% three years before.
However, Avossa said he was not as concerned with preparing students for entrance into a four-year school as he was with careers in manufacturing and radiology technology, positions that require technical certifications instead of bachelor's or advanced degrees. "That's the sweet spot for me," he said. "I think we've got a real opportunity in Palm Beach County."
While the number of students in the county who go on to receive industry certifications has grown to become one of the the highest rates in Florida in recent years, Avossa would like to see that increase even more, writes Andrew Marra for The Palm Beach Post.
"My first expectation is always that people focus on the right thing and for me that's about doing what's best for children," Dr. Avossa said. "I really see our district as either people who teach or you support teaching. If you're in either one of those buckets and you're not contributing to the success of students, then I'm going to have some concerns about that."
When asked about charter schools in the state, in comparison to those in Georgia, he said that "the charter movement and the charter energy here is significantly higher." He went on to say that he does see a role for both school districts and charter schools in the state.
"I think families should have more choice," he said, adding that "we're responsible for making sure people aren't running from the public schools."
He went on to say that in order to prevent parents from moving to charter programs from traditional school settings, the focus needed to be placed on obtaining and keeping high-quality teachers. In addition, courses need to be offered that attract students to learning by keeping their interests in mind.
Although he did approve of the county's choice programs, he noted that more was needed to be done in terms of how best to implement those programs across the county. As an example, he looked to the arts program at Dreyfoos School of the Arts, saying the program should be replicated across the county because of its popularity.
Avossa will enter the position with a base salary of $325,000, making him one of the highest paid school superintendents in the state.