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Lee County schools superintendent maps out vision

Jun. 22, 2013
Lee County schools superintendent talks about futu...
Lee County schools superintendent talks about futu...: Lee County schools Superintendent Nancy Graham talked about her new organization chart and other issues while meeting with the media June 21. Video provided by partner WINK News.
Nancy Graham, the superintendent of Lee County Public Schools meets with the media Friday in Fort Myers. / Amanda Inscore/

Look back at the events that led to Lee County schools getting a new superintendent

There’s change on the way for Lee County schools under new leader Nancy Graham, but there are few details.

In two days, the new superintendent removed two top administrators and crafted a new organization she expects will boost student achievement. On Friday, Graham said during a news conference that she’s planning to build relationships and focus on student data in her new role.

She also defended removing Chief Administrative Officer Alberto Rodriguez and South Zone Director Deedara Hicks from the district.

Details of the new organization are expected Tuesday. But she stressed repeatedly that whatever moves she makes she’s doing in the best interest of students.

“The goal has been to strategically organize the district to help children learn,” Graham said. “The whole goal is student achievement and development, so the organization is built to that end and the structure will be slightly different than it’s been. Some positions have been eliminated, some new job descriptions have been developed.”

When the board selected Graham, they eliminated all executive director and director positions to allow Graham to create her administrative team. The board will meet Thursday to view and vote on the new organization

Her first move has been placing Hicks and Rodriguez, who were brought in under former Superintendent Joseph Burke, on administrative leave with pay and benefits until their contracts end June 30.

“That was a decision I made for this moment in time, and any decision I make is in the best interest of the district and children,” said Graham, Friday evening.

But don’t assume anything regarding possible contract renewals for Hicks and Rodriguez, Graham said.

“There is no status quo,” Graham said. “The positions I’m putting in place will all be about coaching school leadership and instructional personnel to help children do a better job in the classroom.”

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Fischer confident

Board Chairwoman Mary Fischer said she isn’t concerned at this point about people losing jobs, and she’s confident the board will come together as a team to agree on the new organization.

“I’m concerned Dr. Graham has the opportunity to do whatever she has to do to set up the team that’s going to help her get to focus on our mission, which is to educate each and everyone of our children to their maximum potential and to be able to do that and make this transition as smooth as possible,” she said.

The board hired Graham with an up-to-one-year contract, but the short time frame and a pending national superintendent search in October don’t mean she’s scaling back her plans.

“I am going to work as if I’m going to be here a very long time. My plan and hope will be that even if I leave, there will be a system in place, so whoever walked in could take that system, obviously make their own tweaks based on that philosophy,” Graham said.

Fischer said there was a time where the district had seven superintendents in nine years.

“I’m going to do whatever I can personally to support Dr. Graham, and I know that she is going to do an amazing job and when we do complete the search, she’ll still be the choice of the board,” she said.

Graham said she wants the district to have the same goals, the same vision and the same direction, but the district doesn’t have common themes and “it creates waste and inefficiency.”

“(Lee County) is going to be the finest district I’ve ever been in,” Graham said. “We need to improve our system. We need to improve our processes. We need to go back. Lee County was a school system and what it’s become, and this is my opinion and my observation so I don’t want to insult anybody, is that we sort of have a system of schools.”

Connect with this reporter: @AshASmithNews

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