This year the Escambia County School Board will make a decision that will greatly impact every aspect of our community when they select our first appointed school superintendent. The choice of our next superintendent will not only impact the children served by our public school system but also will also signal what type of community we want in the coming decades. The importance of this decision cannot be overstated.
As a part of the selection process, the Greater Pensacola Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors recently participated in a focus group session, similar to those held throughout the community, where we were able to provide our input on the types of characteristics and qualifications that an ideal superintendent would possess. In those discussions, board members identified some key characteristics that our next school board superintendent should own.
One attribute that Chamber board members repeatedly stated that our next superintendent needs is the courage to bring bold, new solutions to the challenges facing our K-12 public education system. While our high school graduation rate has increased dramatically over the past decade, there are still pockets in our community that have not experienced the same gains. To narrow the achievement gap and provide opportunities for students in those communities will take someone willing to implement new approaches until substantial progress is made experienced throughout the district.
Our next school superintendent must also develop strategies that will prepare the workforce of the future. We live in a rapidly changing world where many of the jobs of tomorrow do not exist today. To make Escambia County the best place for businesses to grow and thrive, we must be able to create and attract the talent to fill these jobs and attract new businesses. We need a superintendent that has a proven record of success in addressing this essential issue if we are to remain competitive with other communities in maintaining and attracting talent.
A final quality that Chamber board members repeatedly mentioned that they want to see in our next superintendent is who is a true bridge-builder and connector, someone willing to work with our entire community to address our public education needs. We are blessed to live in a diverse community with an engaged population that wants the best for Escambia County. Our next school superintendent must be willing to reach out and work with to all constituencies including our minority communities, our military, higher education and business community so we can collectively address our educational needs.
We thank outgoing superintendent Malcolm Thomas for his decades of service to our public schools and the leadership displayed in dramatically improving the graduation rate in Escambia County. Now it is time for our school board to take the next step and appoint a forward-looking superintendent with the will to implement strategies needed to address the educational challenges of the coming decade.
Justin Beck is chairman of the Board of the Greater Pensacola Chamber of Commerce.
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