Palm Beach County superintendent hopefuls meet with parents, teachers

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. - With the Palm Beach County School Board only days away from possibly selecting the district's new leader, tough questions for the three people vying for the job came from parents and teachers on Monday night.

Jake Rose is a father of seven district students and a tutor to dozens more.

Once a month, he drives to Belle Glade to volunteer and carries this statistic with him: Out of the hundred students his fraternity works with, 75 have been suspended four times or more.

"It bothers me because I haven't seen any significant change between 1976, when I started volunteering in the Glades area and the present time," said Rose.

Rose asked candidate for superintendent Constance Jones - a top education official in Lee County - whether she would make closing the achievement gap a priority.

"Absolutely," said Jones. "I've already driven out (to Belle Glade) and met with people."

Those types of exchanges represented much of the night for the three candidates vying to replace Art Johnson who last year agreed to leave the district after a decade.

"My belief is to spend a lot of time listening," said Tom Watkins, who ran Michigan schools.

District parent and teacher Ann Friedman took notes, and says her goal was to get a sense of management style.

Is testing a priority? Do they tend to micro-manage? What role will teachers play?

"The superintendent will drive the culture," said Friedman.

The third candidate, Janis Andrews, is the only one to currently work for Palm Beach County schools. The district's head of curriculum since July told parents on Monday night that she'll always be classroom first.

"Reading comprehension is essential, and so are critical thinking skills, problem solving, collaborating. Being a lifelong learner," said Andrews.

The three candidates were whittled from a field of 24.

One of them may be selected to run the district at the board's February 15th meeting.

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