The Egret’s Senior Columnist Raquel V. Reyes explores a timely – or timeless – topic of interest to the greater Miami Shores community. Enjoy!
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Dr. Kelly Andrews is the new Executive Director of Doctors Charter School. Before the chaos of the first weeks of the 2016-2017 school year, I had the opportunity to ask her a few questions.
First off, welcome to Miami Shores and congratulations on your Executive Director’s position. I hope you have settled into your new surroundings. Miami is very different from Richmond, Indiana. Please tell us a little about your family’s journey to our village.
How did you end up in Miami Shores from Indiana?
My husband was first brought here by Miami Shores community members to lead the Miami Shores Presbyterian Church in 2014. Dennis and I found the Village of Miami Shores to be a family centered community as we were looking to relocate both professionally and personally. While Miami Shores is nestled in the international city of Miami, we find it to be charming, quaint, and culturally diverse with opportunities to connect to families and new friends. We are from a small city in the Midwest with several colleges and universities in the area, so having Barry University and other college campuses nearby was a nice advantage as well to connect to higher education.
Florida is a leader and model for charter schools. In your former position as President of the Indiana Association of School Principals did you experience the charter school model? Do you see any advantages to it?
I have been involved in serving and supporting all principals, public, charter, and private in their quest to educate all students. While there are certainly advantages and disadvantages to all types of school systems, we now live in an era of education where parents are more involved than ever and want the opportunity to choose the educational route for their child. It is not about the boundaries of where you live as that used to determine school attendance, but what type of education parents want their child to receive. All schools, public and private are now in the business of marketing their programs in order to draw students to them. Successful schools define themselves with their mission and vision and charter schools particularly have an advantage in this arena to draw students to their defined program.
In DCS’s June newsletter, you share your philosophy of education. Can you please describe to us what “active leadership” looks like?
Active leadership for me is visibility and involvement in the school and greater community and making connections for students, teachers, and families. I hope to participate in community activities/events and learn more about the community to support the many offerings in Miami Shores.
What do you mean by “business-like classrooms”?
Business-like classrooms are defined structures within the classroom that involve routines and procedures allowing for active student engagement and professional student-teacher relationships to grow. DCS has a structured college preparatory program in place and I look forward to observing all the classes, clubs, and activities beginning this fall to share the journey of education with our students.
You also state that “regular assessments” are an aspect of 21st century educational leadership. Florida has been a battleground for standardized testing, especially the FCAT and its newer version the FSA. Parents, teachers, and students have demanded changes. Are you aware of Florida and Miami-Dade’s standardized testing history?
I cannot comment on the history of Florida or Miami-Dade’s standardized testing.
How do you plan to make testing less stressful for DCS students and less of a burden on the teachers’ ability to teach the subject instead of teach the test?
Standardized testing is part of the landscape of education and while there has been a lot of controversy in the 21st century with No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top as well as the new re-authorization Every Student Succeeds Act, it may continue to be something that will continue in some form. The emphasis in the past two decades has created more accountability for schools, good or bad, and perhaps a more focused effort to assist students to succeed, however, the over-reach is something states have pushed back on because we know a “one size fits all” approach does not work. ESSA is working to create more autonomy for states to serve their districts and families and it will take some time for each state to determine how they will implement new accountability measures and what fits for each state. However, we must know how our students are reacting to curriculum in order to personalize learning for every student. Our goal is for every student, every day, to engage in a successful learning experience so when we are taking assessments, the students will have confidence in their knowledge. Whether in later years, a student is taking college entrance exams, teacher licensure exams, the law bar or medical bar exams, DCS students will be prepared in life to take assessments to prepare for their next steps. Assessing students is a part of teaching and learning and we hope that the stress and anxiety over standardized tests will lessen as our state and district develops more opportunities to monitor student achievement in a way that is meaningful to the student and their families as well as the school.
Many families choose DCS not only for the academics but for the athletic programs. In recent years, the sport options have been fewer. Do you plan to revitalize that component of the school’s mission?
I understand that varsity baseball has been added to the sports line-up at DCS. I am looking forward to being a Hawk’s fan in the stands at the many sporting events that DCS offers this year.
I have one last question. What has been the most surprising thing you have discovered about your new home, South Florida?
The July heat of South Florida is not as intolerable as was forewarned! I enjoy the breezes from the ocean that seem to waft inland all the time. I am enjoying the beauty of the flora, but most of all the kindness of all who have welcomed me here.
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Raquel Reyes is a writer living in Miami Shores. Check out www.rvreyes.com for more information about her.