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Duval's school-level Teachers of the Year share what they want in next superintendent

Our community has a shared obligation to work toward a brighter future for our city. By listening to the voices of our teachers and their thoughts on the superintendent search process, we demonstrate our commitment to making Jacksonville a city where all students can receive the knowledge and skills to become responsible, contributing citizens.

We asked our 177 school-level Teachers of the Year to give input on the personal and professional characteristics that they would like to see in our new superintendent. It is important to note that these responses may not represent our community as a whole, and the data should be not be analyzed as such. This is data from a very specific population of highly successful teachers in Duval County. These teachers represent a very important population, and we value their input as experts in the field.

Overall, the feedback from the 2018 Teachers of the Year made it clear that they believe that their voice and expertise should be heard and valued by our incoming superintendent.

What should the new superintendent’s priorities be?

  1. The teachers were asked to rank the following seven priorities* in order of importance to them and their work:
  2. Invest in the attraction and retention of high-quality teachers
  3. Political advocacy in Tallahassee
  4. Work to offer a variety of classes and experiential learning opportunities for students
  5. Use marketing to change the negative perceptions of district schools
  6. Follows through on action after discussions
  7. Personally engage with stakeholders with transparency and intentionality
  8. Equitable distribution of resources and services

*These seven priorities were chosen because they were the priorities that were identified by approximately 400 community members during the 2017 One by One Convention held in Jacksonville.

To rank the top three priorities identified by the teachers, we summed the percentage of respondents that chose each response as one of their top three priorities. The top three priorities chosen by the teachers are: (percentages represent the sum of teachers who chose the response as one of their top three priorities):

  1. Invest in the attraction and retention of high-quality teachers (83 percent)
  2. Follows through on action after discussions (62 percent)
  3. Equitable distribution of resources and services (52 percent)

Given that the respondents to this survey were our Teachers of the Year, we anticipated that the “attraction and retention of high-quality teachers” would be near the top of the list for most of the participants. The 2018 Duval County Teachers of the Year confirmed our hypothesis by overwhelmingly choosing this as their top priority for our next superintendent.

What personal characteristics should the new superintendent possess?

The teachers were asked in an open-ended response question to tell us about the personal characteristics they would like to see in the next superintendent.

The most popular response to this question was that our next superintendent relates to teachers, respects the opinions of teachers and understands the work that teachers do. Over 42 percent of the respondents reported a variation of this idea as very important to them.  

There were two terms that were often used in this open-ended response item: understanding was used by 16 percent of the respondents, and integrity was used by 13 percent of the teachers.

The following selection of quotes is representative of responses to this question:

  • “The next Superintendent's should possess integrity, passion and the skills necessary to move DCPS beyond mediocrity.”
  • “. . .CARES about teachers as human beings, CARES about students (not what kickbacks the district will get), transparent/realistic, positive, financially minded, creative problem solver . . . . ”
  • “Competent. Friendly. Supportive of teachers (the largest employee group).”
  • “Strong positive leadership and understanding of what teachers have to manage in the classroom.”
  • “Fair, listens to teachers and parents, firm but not aggressive.”

What professional experience should the new superintendent have?

The Teachers of the Year were also asked an open-ended response about the professional experience that they would like our next superintendent to have.

Not surprisingly, the most common response included a desire for him or her to have spent time as a classroom teacher and/or as an administrator. Eighty percent of the teachers explicitly mentioned in their responses that our next superintendent should have spent time as a classroom teacher, and 35 percent explicitly mentioned experience in school administration. Many teachers opined that the classroom experience should not be minimal, and some even mentioned a number of years, ranging from 5 - 15 years.  

The following selection of quotes is representative of responses that we received to this question:

  • “Classroom teacher is a MUST.”
  • “Previous superintendent experience, budgeting experience [and] knowledge of Duval system.”
  • “Again, I would like to see someone who firsthand understands the time demands of being a teacher.”
  • “Should have at least 10 years or more experience teaching in the classroom, as well as several years in a principal or vice principal position.”
  • “I am okay with someone new to this. I am okay with someone who has had management/business experience (for financial purposes, that is a good thing). HOWEVER, she/he should have been a teacher at some point! It is not effective to make policy about students, courses and teachers without having real-life experience in the trenches.”
  • “Should have been a classroom teacher for at least 15 years.”
  • “Be highly familiar with educational policy, reform and current trends. The ability to multitask while keeping the goals of the board and county in mind. Be budget conscious, but also know when repairs and upgrades are needed and necessary.”

Our next superintendent will shape the future of public education in Jacksonville. So, let’s work together to make sure that our voices are part of the conversation determining the qualities of our next superintendent.

What do you want to see in our next superintendent? You can fill out the district’s survey here to share your thoughts! For any questions about the Teacher of the Year survey or the corresponding data, please contact Zak Champagne at zak@jaxpef.org.