Better leadership is needed in Alachua County schools

Published: Monday, January 12, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 11, 2004 at 11:12 p.m.

The Gainesville Sun's New Year's editorial, "Agenda for Progress," had an excellent section on "better schools." To comment further on this issue brings us to the need for educational leadership.

We are at a crossroads in Alachua County. Our School Board has turned back the clock to 1969 and there are no real plans to provide equity within the K-12 school population. It is at a time such as this that we need a superintendent with many years of experience as a teacher, principal and administrator to lead us down a positive path.

Twenty-two years ago, the school district was also facing a crisis. Union and management had endless fights and there was a lack of equity for our student population. It was at this time that a true educational leader became superintendent and led us out of the quagmire.

Dr. Doug Magann, in his first executive session with School Board members in regard to working with the union, stated, "Nobody wins unless everyone wins." This led the district into a remarkable period of wise decision-making.

Real leadership is essential right now for our school district. We must not wait. An $11 million school will sit empty while middle and upper-class families will attend schools on the west side of 13th Street, while low-income families will attend schools east of 13th Street.

A true educational leader would have had plans in place to provide equity at the same time as the adoption of the rezoning plan.

A true educational leader would have had plans in place to use the closed school in new and inventive ways.

A true educational leader would find ways for all the children of Alachua County to have an exciting curriculum that would help teachers to do more than prepare for FCAT tests.

And finally, a true educational leader would already have plans for interaction between all our children.

My New Year's wish is for the School Board members to be willing to take the time and effort to find an outstanding superintendent who can provide the leadership this community needs, wants and deserves. A nationwide search is not needed and time is of the essence.

Barbara Gallant is a retired teacher and former School Board member.

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