INDIAN RIVER COUNTY – About a dozen interested citizens, including representatives from area charter schools turned out to the first of six community receptions and interviews for the finalists selected to vie for the Indian River County Schools Superintendent.
Dr. Greg Adkins, the acting interim superintendent for the Lee County School District, fielded questions from the community members and the School Board over the course of three hours Friday afternoon.
“Educating children has been the driving force of my life,” Adkins told the School Board near the end of his interview.
He told the board that he wants to be the superintendent so he can have a greater impact on students’ education, to give them an opportunity to reach their full potential.
Adkins has worked in Lee County for 22 years, starting as a middle school science teacher. He also served as an assistant principal, a principal and later promoted to Chief Human Resources Officer and Chief Negotiator.
School Board members questioned Adkins on how he has addressed the achievement gap between various student populations, which he said a multi-pronged approach has worked in Lee County.
He added that the achievement gap between racial groups should not be the only focus.
“This really worries me as a nation,” Adkins said, explaining that there is an achievement gap between U.S. students and students of other nations, that America is falling behind.
Adkins told both the School Board and community members that the Indian River County School District appeals to him because of its smaller size.
Lee County, by comparison, has more than 80,000 students and 81 traditional schools and 20 charters.
“It’s almost too be in some ways,” Adkins said of his current district.
He told the School Board that if he were selected as the schools superintendent, he would be hands-on and a frequent visitor to the county’s 27 schools.
Prior to the interview, community members were allowed to ask Adkins questions about his experience and what he could offer Indian River County.
Question topics ranged from charter schools and budgets to racial populations and dress codes.
Adkins told the small audience that he has built a collaborative relationship with charter schools, explaining that the charters helped to accommodate the rapid growth of the student population.
That said, “what I’m seeing with our charter schools right now concerns me,” he said.
Adkins said he is beginning to notice a racial imbalance within the charters, that the schools are not reflective of their communities.
Joan Johnson, a member of the Board of Directors of the Indian River Charter High School, said after the community reception that she got the feeling from Adkins that he would treat the charters as equal to the traditional schools.
“He sounds good,” Johnson said.
Adkins said that one of the challenges his school district has is diversifying its workforce. He said that only 12 percent of the district’s staff is a minority. To address the issue, Adkins has been working with the NAACP and the Hispanic Teachers Network to recruit staff.
Indian River County NAACP member Tony Brown said after the reception that he liked that Adkins admitted that his district has a problem with diversifying its staff and that he is taking steps to address it.
“We’ve got to get this right,” Brown said of selecting a new superintendent.
The Indian River County School District has another interview and community reception scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday at the School District office. Other interviews and receptions are set for next week.
The Indian River County School Board plans to hold a special meeting Thursday evening to discuss the six candidates.
Superintendent Dr. Harry La Cava retires June 30. The School Board would like to have the new superintendent in place before that time.