TAKE 5: Lee superintendent talks about transition
This week, we Take 5 with Dr. Andy Bryan, who became Superintendent of Lee County Schools on July 1. Previously, he had been associate superintendent in Lee County.
How has the transition gone for the first three months?
Overall, the transition has gone very well and I have been able to accomplish the goals outlined in the transition plan. I have learned a great deal by meeting with the community. I have really tried to meet with a large group of people, well over 2,000, and to make myself accessible. It has been a pleasure speaking with educators throughout the district and meeting more parents and students. Our business community is very strong and truly supports our schools. Finally, it has been great working with our Board of Education members. They have been very supportive and are clearly committed to providing the very best education possible for our children. As I have stated on so many occasions, this is my home. I believe it has made the transition easier; I feel very fortunate to be the superintendent of Lee County Schools.
What has been the best part about the first three months?
I have thoroughly enjoyed meeting and listening to everyone. I have been overwhelmed by the passion and support that our community has for supporting our schools and children. It has also been energizing to listen to so many different perspectives about our schools. I have really gotten an appreciation for how various individuals and groups view our schools and their different ideas to help improve the district. My favorite part of the first three months has been meeting with students. Overall, I have met with about 300 students in formal settings where they can ask questions and provide feedback. They are always very candid and supportive. Their feedback is very valuable because, in many respects, they are the ultimate customer in the whole idea of public education.
Finally, everyone has been very supportive. I really appreciate all of the individuals and groups that reached out to me personally to make suggestions and give support and words of encouragement.
What are the trends that you have found in the feedback?
Although there are different ideas about how to make our schools better, most of the individuals and groups I have met with are very committed to improving our district. There have been very consistent themes and patterns in the feedback. Most everyone recognizes the link between education and economic development. As a school district, we support that notion, and our community believes in that idea as well.
I strongly sense that people also want community cooperation to not only support our public schools, but also the general direction of our county and municipalities. My impression is that our citizens are growing tired of bickering and partisanship; instead, most people just want good ideas, partnerships, and solutions. Everyone wants quality teachers and instruction in the classroom and high expectations for students so that our children can be successful. We must continue to strive for the best school district possible by examining what we do on a daily basis.
Finally, there is a large concern about how the budget and support for teachers is impacting public education. In many respects, there is a general consensus that public education is under attack right now. Many of the people I met with are very concerned about that trend and what it might mean for the future of our community and state.
How does the board of education retreat fit into the transition plan?
In some ways, the board of education retreat is the culmination of the transition plan because it marks the end of the first three months. However, in a more important way, it is just the beginning of another phase for improvement. I have collected a great deal of valuable information from educators, students, parents, and community members about what our schools are doing well, what we need to improve and the direction in which our schools should move forward. That information is the basis for the board of education meetings next weekend and is also the foundation for improving our schools.
Using the community feedback and my experiences from the first three months, I will provide thoughts to the board of education regarding how our district should move forward. I think that picture should be simple and clear for everyone to support and understand. As we make a decision about direction, I also believe our school district should align all resources behind that picture — our practices, budget, and actions should be moving in one direction. The meetings next weekend will provide a forum for the board of education to discuss the future of our school district.
What happens after the retreat?
After gathering the board's thoughts and suggestions on a proposed direction for the school district, I plan to go back out to the community and our schools to have a more detailed and specific conversation about improving public education in Lee County. I would like to gather more feedback from the community so everyone can have ownership in what we want to accomplish together.
It is extremely important for our employees, students, parents and community members to understand our purpose and how we are trying to improve the lives of our school children for the future. Our schools can only reach their potential if everyone is on the same page and moving in the same direction. That does not mean that we will always agree, however, it does mean that everyone will have an opportunity to understand our purpose and the reasons for our decisions.