Ocala, Florida is in Marion County and boasts one of the largest counties in the country. Due to this fact, the school system is enormous.
The public system has an incredible 7 high schools which are 1500-4000 students in size. There are no small public high schools.
However, this is only part of the story. There are also five private schools along with several Christian schools involved in the educational system here.
Having over 130,000 students is no easy task and the county does struggle at times. Test scores reveal elementary students trailing the state average for most categories including reading, writing, and science.
The superintendent of schools is elected as opposed to hired by the board. This can be a curse or a blessing dependent upon how you view it.
When a superintendent is hired, he or she has to answer to the hiring authority; the school board. However, when the same person is elected, they realize that the board cannot control their employment so the urge to fly solo can be strong.
Again, this can be a good thing or bad thing. Not being afraid of losing your job can lead to being bold and taking risks that can lead to large strides in results.
In other cases, it can lead to superintendents worrying very little about the purpose of their job which can spell disaster for the entire district.
While Ocala is one of the few places in the country that still elects superintendents, there is a large contingent of people calling for a change. The push to change from an elected official to a hired one is gathering steam and will most likely be in place before the next election cycle in 2020.
Another problem with the system is that middle schools do not have sports. As a former coach, I cannot stress enough how important sports are in a young person’s life. Sometimes this is the only way to keep them interested in school or behaving.
Not having sports is simply a monetary issue. The district does not want to fund sports in middle school. The problem with this is that schools should always do what is best for the students. Is not having sports really the best thing for students? I don’t think so.
When you see the amount of money that is wasted on ridiculous things, it can make you angry that sports have been pushed aside. Hopefully the next superintendent will find a way to fund what these kids so desperately need.
Finally, the schools are hopefully beginning a return to vocational education. Many students care little for academics but love working with their hands. After vocational school was cut many years ago, these types of students struggled.
Marion County schools should lead the way with a renewed emphasis on vocational education to help those children. The world has a shortage of vocational type workers now as everyone tries to go to college. Jobs such as plumbers, carpenters etc. also pay very well and are guaranteed to always be there.
Ocala boasts a large amount of schools that with a few changes could be among the best in the state.