After hearing newly-appointed Kathryn LeRoy speak to the Tiger Bay Club for an
hour earlier this month, it occurred to us to wonder what would happen if she had been named Lakeland’s police chief instead of Polk County school superintendent.
Our guess: she would have the Lakeland Police Department squared away by Labor Day, without all the hand-wringing and determination “to get to the bottom of things,” a task that neither the LPD leadership nor Lakeland’s city government seems close to accomplishing.
Ms. LeRoy, recruited to Polk County from the Jacksonville/Duval County school system, demonstrated to Tiger Bay a remarkable balance between showing who is in charge and indicating her willingness to consider new ways of doing things, such as year ‘round school.
Indeed, we suspect the twin mantras of the status quo: (1) “We’ve ALWAYS done it this way,” and (2) “We’ve NEVER done it that way,” will hold little sway with the new superintendent.
As was to be expected, one of the first questions posed by the political junkies of Tiger Bay was why she had hired five top-level administrators from Duval County instead of promoting from within the present Polk County school system.
She said she welcomed the question, and that she chose the five school executives for their track record of success and experience in meeting her expectations. She is confident of their ability to turn around under-performing schools.
It was a tough question and an honest answer. The proof will lie in the results her new hires produce.
Ms. LeRoy refused to join in the chorus of criticism of state regulations of county school systems: letter grades for schools; merit pay for teachers based on student performance; the strength of the charter school system; emphasis on the core curriculum.
It is refreshing to hear a school executive who does not blame all of the problems of public schools on the Florida Dept. of Education.
And it is encouraging to hear from a new executive who pledges to build on the strengths of the system in place, rather than declaring that without his or her expertise, the whole place would have collapsed in a cloud of dust in 45 days.
Trying to make yourself look good by trashing your predecessor is self-serving and unprofessional in the extreme.
The proof of the new superintendent’s performance will lie in the results she produces, results measured in large part by statewide educational standards which she refuses to ridicule.
That said, Kathryn LeRoy impresses us as a competent and energetic leader who will be an asset to the Polk County school system and its students.
We look forward to the coming year.