TAKE 5: Superintendent-elect talks about transition to top job

Jun. 01, 2013 @ 05:00 AM

This week, we Take 5 with Dr. Andy Bryan, who's been selected by the Lee County Board of Education as the system's next superintendent. Bryan succeeds Dr. Jeff Moss, who's leaving to become superintendent of Beaufort County Schools in South Carolina. Bryan, who's now associate superintendent in Lee County, assumes his new position July 1.

What has the transition from associate superintendent to superintendent-in-waiting been like for you?

The transition has been fast, but orderly. Dr. Moss and the board of education members have been outstanding during the transition by providing guidance and words of advice. Likewise, many district educators and community members have been very supportive and offered many words of encouragement. Working within the district and living in the community for the last seven years has provided an advantage regarding the ability to transition quickly. As I have stated before, Lee County is my home and a wonderful place to live. I am very grateful for the opportunity to serve as superintendent.

You've been meeting with your board and community members on an individual and group basis in preparation for taking the top job. What's been the purpose of those meetings, and your impressions after them?

These meetings are part of my transition plan as superintendent. On July 1, I will post a transition plan for the community on the district web site that outlines my first three months as superintendent. Meeting with the board of education and community is an important part of that process. From the board perspective, I believe an honest and respectful relationship between the superintendent and the board is an important prerequisite for an effective school district. I also believe the two parties should act as a leadership team to move the district forward. This includes a relationship that models a focus on a clear district vision, core beliefs, and strategic plan and maintains effective two-way communication in which there are no surprises.

During the transition, I am meeting with individual board members to build on my current working relationship with them and to learn more about their aspirations for our school district. Listening to the community is very important to me. I am and will be meeting with a wide group of educators, parents, students and community members to get feedback. This process provides an even better understanding of our community's aspirations, expectations, and perceptions of our schools. Seeking input from community members helps to clarify the strengths of our school district and the opportunities that exist for improvement. It also provides an opportunity to build new or existing partnerships with various business, civic, community, faith-based and nonprofit groups.

So far, much of the feedback has been very consistent. Across all groups, the message has been very clear — we want a better future for our children and community. There is a great passion in our community to support and invest in our schools and to build even better educational opportunities. Most people have expressed support for our current direction, but have not been shy about pointing out areas in which they think we should improve. They have also cited the need for even more partnerships with the community and have stressed the importance of working together for viable solutions. The process has and will continue to provide important feedback to guide our five-year strategic plan and future direction. I will be sharing the feedback from these meetings with the Lee County Board of Education in the early fall.

LCS staff will be working all summer in preparation for the new school year in August. How will you specifically be working this summer?

Besides working alongside our staff to prepare for the new year, I will continue meeting with a wide group of district employees, parents, students, and community members. I will be very visible and accessible throughout our schools and the community. I will also be in meetings with our teachers and principals who are participating in several professional development sessions during the summer.

There are a number of pressing issues that we will be facing besides the normal preparation for a new school year. Looming budget cuts at the federal, state and local levels and new legislative initiatives will affect how we do business. I am very concerned that these cuts and potential legislation will harm public education. Much of my time will be spent addressing these changes and how they affect our school district.

What goals do you have as superintendent?

My goal is to partner with the community to build a world-class school district that empowers students for a successful future. That includes a focus on nurturing the whole child, setting high expectations, providing individualized guidance and support, and designing real-world learning opportunities. The goal also requires strong support for our teachers and staff.

I strongly believe that education is economic development and that our school district should be part of the economic engine that supports our community. I know how important it is for our community to attract new job opportunities for residents. We want all of our students to be prepared for the economic challenges that they will face during their lifetime. This includes preparing students to pursue a lifetime of learning and to compete for the best jobs. We also want a well-educated citizenry in Lee County that attracts successful businesses to our area, provides a productive workforce and acts for the overall betterment of the community.

We are trying to accomplish this against a backdrop where rapid advances in technology and global economic integration have changed the rules. A pre-K-12 public education must now graduate students who are innovative, adaptable and continuous learners and can compete on an international scale. It is also critical for our schools to nurture students who can ultimately lead and contribute as productive citizens. Understanding the forces shaping economic competitiveness and then translating that information into effective school level practices is the most important way our schools can ensure the future success for our students and community.

Finally, what message would you like to give the faculty and staff of LCS? And parents of students?

Being chosen as Lee County's superintendent is an exciting and humbling opportunity. I understand the tremendous responsibility that accompanies this position and the impact it has on our students and community. I take that obligation very seriously and will perform my job with energy, determination and commitment.

I grew up in a lower-middle class household in which no one had attended college. Although my parents wanted me to succeed, I was an average high school student who lacked focus and vision. I wandered through school until graduation without realizing my potential. These experiences taught me about the need for education, hard work, personal focus and guidance as a prerequisite for a successful life and fulfilling career.

As an educator, I carry these lessons to work every day and understand, now more than ever, that our schools serve as lifelines for all students to be successful after high school. The global economy is very complex and interconnected. Jobs for students who are adequately prepared are no longer guaranteed; jobs for students without knowledge or skills are no longer available.

Consequently, all students are expected to achieve at a higher academic level; university diplomas, associate degrees or workforce certificates are required for advancement. Our school district must empower all students to successfully navigate this environment and prepare for the unknown that might exist in the future. As your superintendent, I will work with you every day to continue building a world-class school district that empowers students for a successful future.