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Three things to watch for in our ‘A’-rated school district

Three things to watch for in our ‘A’-rated school district
By Dr. Desmond Blackburn

Welcome back, teachers, students and families. You are what makes Brevard Public Schools so special – and why our district earned an ‘A’ grade from the state this year.

I’m glad you’re here.

In addition to new lessons and standards in the classroom, I hope you notice three changes that your school board and I have implemented for the coming year.

Discipline plan
First, all schools will have a new discipline plan.  It was carefully researched and designed to make sure that school leaders administer discipline consistently and fairly across the district for misbehavior, regardless of the student’s background.

It is not a relaxing of standards.  Nor is it a zero-tolerance policy. Instead, it gives principals a range of clearly defined options for nearly every situation.

School improvements
Second, we have begun working to make schools everywhere safer and more comfortable places to learn and work.

Over the summer, BPS spent more than $40 million dollars from a half-cent sales surtax approved by voters to replace roofs, air conditioning, pipes and equipment at 17 schools across Brevard.

We also have accelerated the installation of security fencing and visitor-access controls at all Brevard schools by spring break 2018.

The surtax for facilities has raised nearly $100 million dollars so far, and all but a handful of schools have received renewal or repairs with the money.  Please join me in thanking voters.

More time for learning
Third, we have made even more time available for real learning.

We have eliminated dozens of district assessments even as our Florida lawmakers study how to reduce state tests.

And we have slashed the amount of time teachers and principals must spend on staff evaluations in order to devote more attention to our students.

We had already eliminated 192 district assessments. And we’re glad the Legislature ordered a study of how to further reduce standardized tests mandated by the state.

Making progress
We know it’s going to be another challenging academic year. But things are looking up.

  • Our graduation rate is up 1.3 percent.
  • Reading proficiency for third graders – a crucial measure of future success – is up 5 percentage points after several years of stagnation.
  • More secondary students are passing Algebra 1 – a “gatekeeper” to advanced courses and college.
  • We have new and expanded career programs to give more students a head start on success in life.
  • And last year, 351 students earned associate degrees at the same time they graduated from Brevard high schools. That number has grown 32 percent over three years.

I’m excited for school to be getting underway.  On behalf of all of us at BPS:  Have a great year.

Dr. Desmond Blackburn is superintendent of Brevard Public Schools.