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A superintendent finalist says she's collaborated with diverse groups to narrow achievement gaps and boost graduation rates in Jacksonville, Fla., and is ready to do the same in Beaufort County.
Kathryn LeRoy, director of high school programs for the 125,000-student Duval County Public Schools spoke Wednesday during the second of three public forums for candidates seeking the school district's top post.
LeRoy oversaw curriculum, instruction and professional development for about 180 schools in the 22nd-largest school district in the nation. Prior to that, she spent more than 20 years in Miami-Dade schools as a teacher and director of K-12 science instruction.
"I think I bring a wealth of information and expertise working in two large urban districts, working with diverse communities to improve student achievement," LeRoy said.
She has never been superintendent and some claim she was demoted in November from chief academic officer's post.
LeRoy, her supervisor and a Duval County school board member deny that happened, saying it was a lateral move under a reorganization by a new superintendent.
All Duval County high schools scored "A," "B" or "C" in 2012, according to Florida school accountability reports. Ninety percent increased or maintained their letter grade for that year.
One high school rose three letter grades from "F" to "B," according to the report. In 2007, only 31.6 percent of the schools had grades of a "C" or better, according to state education reports.
"I think the Beaufort County has a fine (education) foundation that needs tweaking, and with the right tweaking," teachers, parents and the community can boost student performance, LeRoy said.
As she has in Jacksonville, she said she would focus on implementing a communitywide literacy program and summer retention program to get students reading at grade-level by third grade.
"Children need to be proficient in reading by grade 3," LeRoy said. "All the research shows students will struggle later on in their schooling" if they are not.
LeRoy said she would also enhance professional development to ensure the district has "highly effective teachers in every classroom ... with a deep content knowledge." She also wants teachers to have more instructional time.
She would also pursue partnerships with area technical and community colleges to offer high school students dual-enrollment, where they can "gain a good start on college credit and industry certifications" while meeting high school graduation requirements.
Dee Matthews, assistant principal at Whale Branch Early College High School, was impressed with LeRoy's ideas to increase reading proficiency.
"If we can't get them up to par by third grade, they're going to be lost," Matthews said. "I can tell you it's hard to help a child whose deficient in reading catch up to pass the test by high school."
The other finalists are Jeffrey Moss, superintendent of Lee County Schools in Sanford, N.C., and Gloria Davis, superintendent of Decatur Public Schools in Decatur, Ill.
The board hopes to have a new superintendent under contract by the first week in March, board chairman Bill Evans has said, although the selected candidate would probably not start until July 1.
- Superintendent candidate Moss: Change classroom methods to personalize education: Feb. 13, 2013
- Beaufort County school superintendent candidate LeRoy heavy on curriculum, light on experience: Feb. 12, 2013
- Beaufort superintendent candidate Moss visionary to some, despite outburst caught on video: Feb. 11, 2013