A Message from the Superintendent
Dear Volusia County Residents,
In three decades of public education, serving as your Superintendent has been my greatest professional pleasure. As I reflect on my interview and my first days in Volusia County, one message was very clear from the beginning: there was a need for significant change; a robust strategic plan was the conduit to make that happen. Our team developed the strategic plan based on input from countless focus groups consisting of parents, teachers, students, administrators, staff, community members, and board members. Through this process, all stakeholders' input guided the development of our vision, mission, goals, strategies, and metrics. To drive the strategic plan, we implemented a process to monitor the progress of each of the five goals and strategies throughout the year. Updates are presented to the School Board twice a year. This monitoring process identifies and removes barriers, especially those that impede student success. Training principals has also been an integral part of the process to ensure that each School Improvement Plan aligns with the district strategic plan. A strong rollout takes time. The implementation at the school level began in January 2022 and will continue over the summer with the remainder of the school sites.
Just this week, Volusia County Schools earned a nearly perfect score on our recent accreditation by the international nonprofit, Cognia, largely due to our successful strategic plan. Overall, Volusia County Schools received an "Index of Education Quality" score of 385.48 out of a possible 400, which well exceeds Cognia's average score of 278-283. The Volusia County Schools' score of 385 is a 117-point increase from its 2015 accreditation score of 268. Volusia County Schools was awarded the highest rating of "impacting" in 29 of the 31 Cognia standards.
Although I have not been formally evaluated, I was named one of the top 19 Superintendents to Watch in the country by the National School Public Relations Association. While I am honored to have been selected, I am most proud of the accomplishments of our students. I would like to take the opportunity to highlight their successes. The district graduation rate has increased from 84% to 91 .9% in three years and is above the state average for the first time in Volusia County history. In addition, our students' SAT scores are significantly higher than the state and national averages. This increase is due to opportunities for students to take the SAT during the school day and regular SAT practice through Khan Academy. In partnership with the Daytona Chamber of Commerce, all Volusia County Schools' middle and high school students are offered YouScience to identify each student's areas of talent and interest. This tool allows our school counselors to have strategic conversations about course offerings and post-secondary planning with their students. As a result, Career Technical Education (CTE) offerings have expanded in our high schools. In fall 2021, we opened the HVAC Academy at Pine Ridge High School. In fall 2022, we will be launching Electrical Programs at Mainland and Taylor Middle-High School. Likewise, we have provided transportation to all high schools so that students can take CTE dual enrollment opportunities through Daytona State College.
A further point of pride, Volusia County Schools, was named the AICE Cambridge School District for the nation in 2021 . Our students increased their College Career Readiness from 46% to 69% in just one year, an all-time high for Volusia County Schools. This means that 23% more of our high school students earned dual enrollment, AICE, Industry Certifications, International Baccalaureate, and/or Advanced Placement passing scores. Our kids are not only crossing the stage, but they are also doing so with something tangible for post-secondary life. It is extremely important to note that all of these accomplishments took place during a pandemic!
The pandemic also brought up new concerns regarding our students' mental health and loss of learning. In spring 2020, we shifted to virtual instruction like the rest of the nation. Although it came with its share of challenges, we ensured that all Volusia County Schools students had an electronic device for continued remote learning. In response, we are redesigning our middle school structure for the 2022-23 school year. The middle school redesign will include a team approach consisting of six teachers who share a common group of students. Parents will be able to conference with all teachers at the same time. Classes will be in proximity to each other for a shorter transition time. In addition, the accreditation review team recommended implementing formal structures to ensure students develop positive relationships with adults, which validates that the reformation is imperative as middle school is a difficult time in a student's academic life. Additionally, we have increased the number of counselors to reduce the counselor-to-student ratio in all schools and have provided extra mental health counselors at the secondary levels.
At the elementary level, we have expanded the Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten programs by ten additional schools in just two years, with continued growth expected each year. To provide our students with supplemental learning opportunities, we increased the number of in-person and virtual summer program offerings to an all-time high. Despite the pandemic, nine elementary schools earned an A school grade, with four of those schools increasing from a C to an A.
There have been several projects launched this school year that should continue for the good of the students and their families. In anticipation of the construction of the new Turie T. Small Elementary School in fall 2023, we plan to convert the old Turie T. Small into a community center. Meetings with the NAACP, AALC, the city of Daytona Beach officials, and the families are already underway to ensure this center provides for our community's needs. We also plan to include a designated area to honor historically significant local African American leaders.
As you can see, we have many accomplishments to be proud of in the last two and a half years. Hardworking staff, families, students, and community members have all been a part of this great success. Your mission moving forward is to ensure that the great work we've started continues by "keeping your eye on the ball." Demand more. Our students deserve it!