INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — Indian River County Schools Superintendent Fran Adams begins her first school year in her new position Aug. 22. She said she wants to focus on improving customer service in the schools and the district.
"What I want us to do is become more cohesive as an organization," she said. "The expectations are going to be higher this year. The budget challenges are still there. We're all in this together. We've got to learn to support each other for the benefit of all our students."
Among her plans are to attend at least one faculty meeting at each of the schools this year and talk with the teachers. Adams, formerly the district's assistant superintendent of curriculum, wants the district to embrace technology and virtual education, something she sees as the future of education.
Below are questions we posed to Adams as she prepared for the 2011-2012 school year.
Q. What is your outlook for the coming school year?
A. I have a positive outlook. I'm proud to be superintendent of the school district. I am proud of what has been accomplished.
Q. What is the biggest change students will notice when they return to school?
A. At the elementary level, they may notice they have a unified dress code. That's probably something they will talk about with their friends. The students at Vero Beach Elementary, they're going to watch their school come up out of the ground (as it is built). Glendale Elementary has a new bus loop. We're building a new support building (on the property adjacent to Storm Grove Middle School). Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, purchasing, facilities, building, food services, warehouse, maintenance, the print shop are moving out to the new (support) facility. That group will be all under one roof. It's kind of long overdue.
Q. How does this school year differ from other school years?
A. There are some new faces. A new principal at Liberty Magnet School. There is new leadership at the district offices. I moved every elementary assistant principal. (And) the three magnet schools do not have an assistant principal at all.
Q. What new programs/changes/schools are planned for this school year?
A. We are expanding Fundations (a program with the Indian River Learning Alliance that offers students strong instruction in phonics to help them read) to five schools — Beachland, Highlands, Vero Beach, Citrus and Fellsmere elementary schools. The goal is going to be that 90 percent of our children are reading on grade level by third grade. Beyond third grade, it becomes very difficult to close that gap. Then it becomes remediation.
We have tremendous legislative impacts this year. There is a requirement that an incoming ninth-grader has to have a virtual (online) class before graduation. We need to be looking at (virtual education). That is the wave of the future. It really has to be explored.
Q. What should students expect when they arrive on the first day of school or for the new school year?
A. They should expect teachers and all staff to welcome the students back to school. One of the things I'm very passionate about this year is relationships (between district staff, schools and parents) and good customer service.
Q. What is your message you would like to share with students and parents for the upcoming school year?
A. For parents, it's important for them to stay informed. Know who your child's teacher is, know who the principal is, know some of the people in the school who may be able to help you. Contact the school and teacher if you have questions about how your child is learning. Attend parent-teacher conferences. Join the Parent Teacher Association, the Parent Teacher Student Association — those organizations at the school that are there as advocates for children and families. I want parents to know the success of their child is important to us.
For students, I want them to come to school ready to learn. I want them to come to school prepared. I want them to talk to their principal, teacher or another adult in the school if they don't feel safe. I want them to get involved in school activities.
And, know a good work ethic will get you far in life. It isn't always easy.