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Tallahassee Democrat: What we need is a schools ‘conductor’

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

New commissioner must draw on a mix of talent
Ed H. Moore • My View • Published: June 07. 2011 2:00AM

A recent headline in a Florida newspaper claimed our state was searching for a “rock star” to fill the role of commissioner of education. Such headlines do little to stimulate interest in education and, in fact, are likely to do more harm than good.

Florida doesn’t need a “rock star.” Instead, we need someone who is like the conductor of a great orchestra or the director of a blockbuster film — someone who can draw upon the tremendous talents already in Florida to expand an atmosphere of success and who exudes the energy to succeed.

We need a leader with the will to allow our strong assets to blend together so that Florida will outperform all other states at every educational

The next commissioner will have big shoes to fill with the departure of highly regarded Eric J. Smith, who became education commissioner in 2007 and has resigned, effective this coming Friday.

In spite of a good many applications, the state Board of Education continues its search, even as the governor has three more appointments to make to the state board itself.

However, this is the chance to show the students of Florida that, no matter how humble your beginnings, no matter what your starting place,
there are no excuses, nor are there barriers to your success. There are only obstacles to overcome and opportunities to pursue.

Sure, sometimes life is tremendously difficult, but the ambition to succeed can be nurtured in every student. We are fortunate to have  educational opportunities abounding in Florida, from our Pre K-12 systems, both public and private, to our expanding online resources, to our quality 28 community-state colleges, to our 11 state universities and our 29 independent colleges and universities offering programs throughout Florida.

All of the resources are there for the right conductor, able to work closely with all of this talent for the betterment of the children of Florida.
Florida never stands still in the pursuit of improvement and it will continue to model, measure and modify. Florida does not need a “rock star.” It needs leadership from a great conductor who brings the willingness to effectively use the talent chain we already have in our great state.

Florida needs an education leader who can demonstrate the best qualities of success; one who can draw upon the immense talents of so many dedicated people in our educational systems to work together to push Florida to the forefront of achievement and continuous improvement.

We have an engaged and knowledgeable Legislature focused on improving educational quality. These hard economic times limit resources, but the attention and desire is there to keep Florida on the road to continuous evaluation and improvement.

Gov. Scott made education a centerpiece of his campaign and upon election made it a focus of his transition efforts. Again, hard economic times have temporarily limited the possible. But Gov.Scott has expressed an understanding of the critical role of education as a foundation for economic development.

So why do we not see others clamoring to come to Florida or step up from other positions in Florida to be our commissioner of education? The opportunity is there to move Florida further into the forefront of improvement and reform. We are a national leader.

The Legislature has passed a series of new bills that offer the promise of continued change and improvement. We have tremendous superintendents across Florida. We have dedicated school board members with their feet on the ground in our local communities. We have a strong state Board of Education, and we have a legion of dedicated and committed teachers and school administrators.

Friday, got to congratulate Bond Elementary School fourth-grade student Aliyah Everett, who received a perfect grade on last year’s FCAT, during a ceremony in April.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ed H. Moore is president and CEO of Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida, an association of 29 private, not-for-profit colleges and universities, based in Tallahassee. Contact him at

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