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New Alachua County Public Schools superintendent discusses plans for academic pandemic recovery

Published: Dec. 10, 2020 at 5:04 PM EST
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - Dr. Carlee Simon is serving as the interim superintendent of Alachua County Public Schools after the school board pre-empted the resignation of the previous superintendent, Karen Clark. This happened following accusations of Clarke underserving minority students, losing the headstart grant, and mishandling the pandemic.

A vote on whether to retain Dr. Simon as superintendent is set for next week.

Dr. Simon was chosen out of seven candidates to take on this role. She currently serves as a faculty member at the University of North Florida. She has ten years of instructional and curriculum experience in the K-12 settings, including teaching at P.K. Younge and the Florida Virtual School.

One of the main complaints that Karen Clarke had when she was superintendent was the achievement gap between students in East Gainesville versus the rest of the school system. Dr. Simon says she is confident in her collaborative approach to this issue.

“I think what it is going to take is quite a bit of collaboration and reaching out to communities, teachers, and individuals who are also involved .... as far as support components ... and I really believe we need to make sure we are working with the city and the county to make sure we have all sorts of services.”

Along with the several goals that Dr. Simon has for the school system, she says her expertise in education finance will be crucial when it comes to dealing with the financial impacts of COVID-19.

She said not only will she be focused on the financial impacts of the pandemic, but also the health and educational impacts.

“We are working with our medical experts and our health department experts. We are collaborating.”

December 15th is the deadline for Florida school systems to submit a new learning plan that includes virtual or hybrid learning options. There is a school board meeting that evening to vote on the plan, which will be one of the first tasks Dr. Simon takes on.

“It’s very similar to the Fall plan but we needed to add interventions and supports to students who have not been as successful as others in this situation ... as well as looking at summer opportunities to help recover from all of the impacts that COVID has had on our education system.”

A contract is currently being negotiated. The board will vote on that contract on December 15 with Dr. Simon expected to officially start the following day.

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