This will be short. If you’re ready to start right now in the happy work of building a better Polk School District model, we need you. Come down to the School Board Office in Bartow for today’s 5 p.m. meeting on Kathryn LeRoy’s future.
Today determines whether we move forward quickly and creatively toward a new and better education mindset for Polk County. Our newly-formed group, Citizens for Better Educational Leadership, is pulsing with ideas and energy. You will start reading them early next week, whether LeRoy is still superintendent or not. All of them relate to re-orienting our educational system around the specific needs and well-being of individual children and improving the quality of life for our educators.
The only question is whether we’ll be doing it in constructive collaboration with the School Board and administration — or as a sort of educational opposition party. Make no mistake either way: we’re serious people, and we’re not going away. We’ll make better allies than enemies.
Speaking only for myself, I plan to read back today the second sentence of LeRoy’s self-defense statement to her. It tells all of Polk County all it really needs to know: It took me 30 years to get here.
The education mindset that reduces children to lightbulbs on an incoherent scoreboard has long rewarded the adult shallowness and selfishness and pointless careerism that you see in the LeRivers report. That’s her great crime. And she doesn’t even realize it because it’s always worked for her before. That is how she governs. She is, quite literally, a product of the system. She’s not ever going to change a mindset that rewards her for looking at human beings as nothing more than bullet points on her resume. So it’s not enough to simply remove LeRoy. She’s a symptom of our educational disease. We must treat the disease. That’s what’s really, really exciting to me. Because I see a treatment path. Again, we’ll start talking about that next week.
Finally, I’m told that former School Board Member Debra Wright is organizing some folks to speak on behalf of LeRoy. Good. I find it hard to believe that in a county of 600,000 people no one has a kind word to say about LeRoy. But that has been my experience so far. She is, without question, the most universally loathed public official I have ever written about. As a human being, she probably deserves someone to say kind things about her. One can feel human compassion for a person while also knowing the importance of behaving with professional decisiveness.
More importantly, we welcome the chance to engage LeRoy supporters, if there are any. We’ll need them whether she departs or stays to build our vision. Unlike LeRoy, we value everyone. This isn’t a football game. It’s not Seminoles and Gators. We all share ownership of this fractured school district.
Re-orienting Polk County education away from meaningless spreadsheet cells toward human development is a long-term project, with time horizons of years and decades. It runs contrary to the muddled direction of state power. And we’ll have to challenge that. This will not be easy. But it can be fun. And the School Board members can help us accelerate things today. I’m optimistic that they will.