Dr. Owen Roberts takes educational pulse of community

W - Alachua school forum DSC 0022Alachua County Superintendent of Schools Owen Roberts responds to community members attending the Alachua school forum and explains his vision of achieving excellence in education

ALACHUA – Alachua County Superintendent of Schools Owen Roberts has been front and center listening to communities voice their thoughts about the local school system. High Springs held the first forum in Alachua County on Oct. 16 and since then Roberts has been on the circuit throughout the county conducting listening sessions. The latest such session was held in Alachua on Thursday, Jan. 15.

A crowd of parents, teachers, administrators and community members turned out at the Alachua Woman’s Club to participate in the forum that centered on local schools Irby Elementary, Alachua Elementary, Mebane Middle School and Santa Fe High School.

Participants were divided into working groups that tackled a series of questions posed by Jackie Johnson, Public Information Officer for the school board. Johnson transcribed comments onto oversized yellow paper that was mounted on easels for group discussion. Roberts told meeting participants that he would listen to their input and he was prepared to consider every recommendation or suggestion made.

Issues raised included the existing economic disparity in the area as compared to Gainesville, the potential for crime due to ease of access from I-75, excessive school testing and that a school’s grade could be detrimental to future local economic development.

Many comments were in a positive vein and spoke about the strong faith-based aspect of the community, the importance of agriculture, the educational pipeline starting with elementary school through high school and then to college, referencing the Santa Fe College Perry Center for Emerging Technologies located across U.S. Highway 441 from the Progress Park and the Sid Martin Biotech Center. A number of participants agreed the area is a tight-knit community where there is a sense of familiarity amongst the residents and community leaders are involved in the schools. Hailed as areas of excellence were the recreation program, the public library and the community’s population diversity.

Suggestions to improve educational opportunities included additional tutoring programs for students, increased parental involvement, additional partnering with local businesses, conducting school activities on Saturdays and encouraging schools to have school-wide activities and celebrations rather than restricted to a single grade or classroom.

In closing the session, Roberts referenced districtwide strategies including a renewed focus on language development. “A child’s achievement is tied to their ability to use language, and that is critical,” Roberts said. He also noted that while schools are a vital catalyst for positive change, it takes commitment from all parts of the community to make transformative changes in schools.

#     #    #

Email editor@