Challenges Ahead for Orange County Teachers, Students
Orange County Public Schools Superintendent Barbara Jenkins says teachers and students face some tough challenges when the school semester begins in a few weeks.
Dr. Jenkins took over the job in June succeeding long serving superintendent Ron Blocker.
Speaking to a League of Women Voters group in Orlando Wednesday, Jenkins said the county’s 181 thousand student population includes a growing number struggling with poverty.
She said a few years ago there were just a couple of hundred homeless students in Orange County.
“And at the end of last year we came very close to 5,000 students whose families were dealing with homeless issues," she said.
"Our free and reduced lunch students went up from the mid 50s to 64 per cent, and that’s an indication of poverty levels and an indication of the economy in our local community as well.”
Dr. Jenkins also told the league that tough new FCAT testing rolled out last year put additional stress on teachers and students.
She said the state education department is also facing some challenges after a year marked by controversy over tough new Florida Comprehensive Assessment Testing. The department is also searching for a new education commissioner after the sudden resignation of Gerard Robinson last month, after just one year on the job.
Robinson was criticized over the FCAT rollout which saw grades drop sharply, and the revelation that the department of education had miscalculated some school grades.
Dr. Jenkins said Robinson should not be blamed for all of the problems with FCAT, and his resignation was unfortunate.
“Given some of the issues he had to deal with in the past year, I certainly understand his decision, but I’m hoping they’ll find a replacement quickly for stability at the state level.”
Dr. Jenkins says the turmoil in Tallahassee shouldn’t have a direct impact on students or their parents this semester.
Robinson leaves at the end of the month and in the meantime a nationwide search for a permanent replacement is underway.