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Orlando and Boston Name New Leaders, Tampa Supt. Contract Extended

  • Orange County Public Schools in Orlando, Fla., recently selected Maria Vazquez as its new superintendent. She is the current deputy superintendent and will be the first Hispanic leader of the 206,000-student school system. She will succeed Barbara Jenkins, who will retire at the end of the calendar year.

    Vazquez has held several positions in the district, including principal, area superintendent and chief academic officer before being promoted to deputy superintendent in 2018. During her tenure, she expanded access to advanced coursework for historically underserved students, recruited successful teachers to the most vulnerable schools, and reprioritized the district’s budget to support teaching and learning.

    “She is student-centered, and I have every confidence she will create a learning environment where all children feel safe, supported, and successful,” said school board chair Teresa Jacobs in a news release.

    Boston Public Schools also selected a new leader, Mary Skipper, to helm the 53,094-student school system. Skipper has served as the superintendent of Somerville Public Schools in Massachusetts for seven years, but she is no stranger to the Boston school system. Before coming to Somerville, she was the Network Superintendent of High Schools, where she oversaw 34 high schools in Boston serving approximately 19,500 students.

    Skipper said she was honored and humbled to have been selected to lead the district that raised her as an educator and solidified her passion for making a difference in the lives of students. “This is a pivotal time in Boston and BPS’ history, and nothing less than our student’s and our city’s future is at stake,” said Skipper. “I look forward to working with our families, educators, community leaders and our students to ensure every BPS student has the opportunity for a great education that sets them up for success in school and in life.”

    During the leadership transition, she will work closely with Drew Echelson, who will serve as acting superintendent following the departure of Brenda Cassellius.

    Contract Extended in Tampa

    Addison Davis, the superintendent of Hillsborough County Public Schools in Tampa, Fla., was recently given a contract extension. The Hillsborough County school board voted to extend his contract until June 2027, citing educational and financial successes under his tenure as well as a need for stability.

    Davis has led the 220,000-student school district since 2020, the same week schools in the district closed and converted to virtual learning because of the COVID-19 epidemic.

    Under his leadership, the number of chronically underperforming schools was reduced by half, the district’s finances improved, graduation rates increased, and mental health supports were expanded.

    “Superintendent Davis is just hitting his stride as we move forward from the pandemic,” said board chair Nadia Combs. “Our community needs a strong leader with new, bold ideas to serve students and families in one of the largest school districts in the nation.”

    Kansas City Leader Steps Down

    Mark Bedell, the superintendent of Missouri’s Kansas City Public Schools since 2016, recently announced his departure to lead Maryland’s Anne Arundel County Public Schools with 83,000 students.

    Under Bedell’s leadership, the Kansas City school system won full accreditation in January from the Missouri State Board of Education, after struggling with accreditation issues for more than two decades.

    In recent years, the district worked to show sustained progress on various performance measures, including attendance and graduation rates. Four-year graduation rates improved from 68.7 percent in 2016 to 77.8 percent in 2021. In addition, the number of students taking Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and dual credit classes increased by 44 percent.

    In a letter to the community, Bedell said it was a phenomenal experience working alongside everyone to achieve accreditation for the district’s students and that the work would continue.

    “What we have built over the last six years is a solid foundation of support for our students and families,” wrote Bedell. “I am leaving strong people and programs in place, and I trust them to keep moving KCPS forward.”

    The district named Deputy Superintendent Jennifer Collier interim superintendent for the 2022-23 school year. Collier has served as an educator in the Kansas City school system for 22 years, including as an assistant principal, principal, and chief human resource officer.

    Interim Named in Austin

    Texas’ Austin Independent School District recently selected Anthony Mays to lead the school district during the 2022-23 school year, succeeding Stephanie Elizalde, who was named the superintendent of the Dallas Independent School District.

    Mays has served as Chief of Schools for the school district since 2020 and is the first African-American to lead the school system.