As we put the wraps on the decade of the 2010’s here in Osceola County, we’re asking local officials and “movers ‘n shakers” to reflect on the last year of this one and the first one of the new decade, the “Roaring ’20s”, and how we’re going to best usher it in.
Debra Pace is the Osceola School District’s superintendent. But she’s more invested in the county’s education system than being its leader. She cut her teeth in the county as a teacher, principal and district administrator before ascending to her current role, and has raised children and is nurturing grandchildren who were or will be Osceola County students. Here are her thoughts on the past year, the one upcoming and what school district might look and how it will educate our next generation when we do this again in 2029.
What were the school district’s biggest wins in 2019?
We saw continued improvement in the graduation rate, up to 90 percent. We now rank 14th out of the state’s 67 districts in graduation rate, and high school graduation is such a critical “first step” for our students and their futures.
We were able to provide a 2.5 percent raise for all employee groups — both the School Board and I want it to be more — but in these tight budget times, it’s the highest raise we’ve been able to offer in five years. We were able to open Harmony Middle School and NeoCity Academy’s main campus, as well as a completely renovated Michigan Avenue Elementary, evidence of the Board’s commitment to fiscal responsibility and investing our sales tax dollars in the projects we promised our community we would prioritize.
What are you looking forward to in 2020?
We will continue the focus on meeting the needs of ALL students, serving Every Child, Every Chance, Every Day with excellence in caring and supportive learning environments, and strengthen the district’s culture and recruitment/retention of high-quality teachers and staff members for our schools. Comprehensive renovations are wrapping up for Denn John Middle and St. Cloud Middle schools, and planning is getting underway for Gateway High and Osceola School for the Arts.
When you look at the end of the next decade, what will be the difference in how county students receive their education?
In 2029, Osceola students will be immersed in highly engaging, rigorous classrooms with a hands-on learning and a strong focus on STEM and the careers of the future in order to ensure we have a robust talent pipeline to contribute to our thriving economy. There will be less brick and mortar, fewer buses, and more virtual learning in communities of shared interests, goals, and dreams.