Superintendent Dr. Owen Roberts begins tenure

Hello Friends, please check out our first “The MECCA” video blog! There will be more to come in the future! Enjoy and Stay Tuned and Stay Informed!


The board has made their selection, to go to the moon with Dr. Owen Roberts

Dr. Owen Roberts

Dr. Owen Roberts


“I will do everything in my power to meet the expectations of the board and the community” states Dr. Owen Roberts who was selected Wednesday afternoon by the Alachua County School Board as the next Superintendent of the district.

I wish that you all could have been in attendance to hear the applause as community members took a deep lasting breath of satisfaction in knowing that the process was completed.

Community members included members of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated the Mu Upsilon Omega Chapter, the University of Florida’s very own Professor Samuel Stafford of Political Science, City Commissioner Yvonne Rawls and many others. Many in support of the candidate Dr. Owen Roberts, as the floor was opened to the community, many stood to express their deepest support.

But not only was the support of the candidate shown from the community, but it was also shown in the way in which the board voted.

So you may all understand the layout of the meeting, we first heard from the District Advisory Council (DAC) which was comprised of appointed teachers, and community leaders- one of which including former City Commissioner Cynthia Moore Chestnut.

The DAC was a part of the process from the beginning in which they helped to formulate the questions asked during the candidates’ interviews. And they also aided the board in discussing the candidates much further, even to the core of the character of each candidate.

The DAC explains that their responsibility was to only give conclusions and not a recommendation to the board. And when they gave the conclusions based off of the candidates’ resumes, interviews, and the community receptions, I must say that they did not hold back. The DAC was completely honest, and what maybe a board member would have been afraid to say (for their own political agendas), they mentioned.

And as a community, I believe that we must congratulate the DAC for their diligence and honesty, because at the school board meeting they truly spoke on behalf of the people.

Next, Public Information Officer Jackie Johnson collected the ballots of the school board members in which the following rankings and points were given:

1st Place Vote= 5 points

2nd Place Vote= 3 points

3rd Place Vote= 1 point

 The following chart displays how each board member voted:

Superintendent Selection Straw Poll

Griffin McNealy Oyenarte Paulson Roy Total






















As you can see, two board members refrained from voting in the Straw Poll. And with the ballots not being the official determinant of who would be selected, the tension was a little high.

However, board members April Griffin and Carol Oyenarte both later confirmed in their statements as to why they chose to refrain from voting in the poll. April Griffin explained that she could not rank the candidates because of some reservations that she had about each of them and that she’d previously spoken to each candidate personally about her doubts during their visits to Gainesville, Florida.

Though Griffin had reservations, she did make it clear that “In the best interest of our students I will support whoever is chosen”.

In addition, Oyenarte stated “None of these candidates met our criteria”- as she further explained that they did not meet the criteria that they set out for in finding a candidate who was very knowledgeable with budgets, and very experienced.

And although Oyenarte believes that the candidates did not meet the full criteria, she also felt inclined to explain how she (like Griffin) will support whichever candidate was selected- and she liked Dr. Roberts who she stated impressed her from the very beginning. And though she did not vote in the poll she applauds and can see how she and Dr. Roberts are one in the same for their belief in a “Children First” approach.

I must say, although Griffin and Oyenarte’s views sort of shook up the meeting, I appreciate a board and members who will not simply be “yes men and women”, but are taking their jobs seriously.

Furthermore, as shown in the poll, the other three board members Eileen Roy, Gunnar Paulson (chair of the board) and Leanetta McNealy were in full favor of Dr. Owen Roberts.

In his statements, Paulson even said “I don’t see how you can criticize this man at all”.

And McNealy applauded Paulson for his tenacity throughout the process, because it led to Wednesday night’s decision and the ending of a long 8 month search.

I must say that I too am satisfied with the end result of the search.

Dr. Owen Roberts is also the first black man to be selected as the superintendent of the Alachua County School District, an honor that I hope he will carry with the utmost gratitude.

I am honored to have been a part of the crowd who cheered, and I am honored to have followed this search from the beginning to the very end.

I am also happy that you all have followed me along the way. This is only the beginning friends.

With this being said, let us congratulate and welcome Dr. Owen Roberts.



Who will the Alachua County School Board name as the next Superintendent?

The anticipation is high, but the wait to hear who will be the next superintendent of the Alachua County School District ends tomorrow, Tuesday, June 3rd at the Kirby Smith Building (620 East University Avenue) at 6pm.

The search for the next superintendent began with a nationwide search and many community forums in which the school board requested the input of the community about what characteristics they sought in a superintendent. And now with all of such work being compiled, alongside officially meeting the candidates through community receptions in the month of May, the decision is being made.

The final candidates are as follows:

Dr. James Browder

Dr. Mark Rendell

Dr. Owen Roberts

I hope to see you at the meeting tomorrow in support of your community, education, and the plight of moving forward in Alachua County Schools.




To the moon with Superintendent Finalist, Dr. Owen Roberts

“Lets go where no man has gone before”, states Dr. Owen Roberts in his opening speech at the Matheson Museum for the Dr.OwenRobertsSuperintendent Finalist Community Reception.

Dr. Roberts is the third candidate to visit the area as a finalist, and he was one I must say is hard to forget. He presented himself with much poise and conviction as he spoke, answering questions posed by the public.

Dr. Roberts, who grew up with about 8 siblings, says that it is important to recruit and retain great teachers. He even reflected on the times in which “teachers were revered in our community” and seen as very valuable. And how it is important for us to return to the place in which teachers were appreciated in our schools.

Furthermore, he states that “Long before [there was an] achievement gap there is an access gap” which is a gap in which some students are being exposed to certain programs and amenities, dependent upon which school they attend, while others are receiving little to no exposure.

And as the topic of the fair allocation of resources across the district continues to be mentioned, Dr. Roberts mentioned that he believes that “many programs are band-aids and are not addressing the root cause”, and he acknowledges that many changes cannot occur in a year because they are deeply rooted. However, he implied that he believes in programming, but of course programs that are proven to be effective and have been tested for efficiency in our schools. One note he made was that too many

Dr. Roberts as he spoke at the Matheson Museum

Dr. Roberts as he spoke at the Matheson Museum

times our districts implement programs, have them for one year, and then bring a new program the next year to replace it without considering why the program failed to begin with. Dr. Roberts states that it is a waste of money- and he has all the right to state this in that if our districts are going to implement programs, they should do so with the mind set of establishing effectiveness and longevity.

Furthermore, one community member asked Dr. Roberts how he would work to dismantle the school to prison pipeline issue in Alachua County. In response, he explained that a clear continuum needs to be established as to what to do with students who are falling into that category in their academic career, because the pipeline exist because kids are becoming disengaged. This recognition of the disengagement of our students in our schools is important, because only through acknowledging this can we begin exploring ways to keep students engaged in their educational pursuits, and help keep their dreams alive, and establish why their education is so important.

And when asked about his five year vision for Alachua County he explained his focus on forming the schools into “centers of excellence” in which more rigorous work and instruction will be provided. By doing this he confirmed that he believes that some of our issues will go away by setting a higher standard for education in the county.

Finally, one thing that Dr. Roberts (an educator who prides himself on data and research findings) stated is that “if we understand the indicators for success, we can get there”. Thus, lets take Alachua County schools where they have never been before, and the first step is through the selection of the next Superintendent of the district.

I hope to see you all at the next community reception as the last candidate Dr. James Browder will be presented at the Matheson Museum (512 East University Avenue, Gainesville, Fl) May 21st from 6-7:30pm.

Stay tuned, and stay informed!


Superintendent candidate Mr. Fred Heid is looking to ‘marry a district’

fredheidOn May 12, 2014, Superintendent Candidate finalist Mr. Fred Heid of Duval County visited Alachua County. A part of this visit was his attendance at the Superintendent community Reception/ forum given by the School Board as a way to allow the community to meet the candidate and ask direct questions.

To give a synopsis of Mr. Heid, he has been in education for 15 years and came to education as a second profession after working with his father’s business. He is currently pursuing his Ph.D. in which he is constructing a dissertation on his philosophy of the “railroad district”- a philosophy that insinuates that communities self segregate and divide themselves, especially economically. This self segregation leads to many preconceived notions about the allocated resources given to schools- in which the community believes that some schools are provided more resources than others.

He explained that he was “fortunate to be provided opportunities to grow” professionally which has played a huge role in his professional trajectory in regards to how much he has done in education to date. He currently serves as the Chief Academic Officer of the Duval County Public School District.

Now Heid comes to Gainesville, Florida, as he is hoping to make Gainesville his new home in which he states that “we are looking to marry a district”. Appearing to be a family man, he has a wife and a seven year-old son, and states that his son is even tired of moving around and they are looking to stay in one place for a very long time.

I believe that this stability is one in which the Gainesville community needs from any candidate that is running. Someone who is ready to remain in the city to address any and all educational issues the county is facing.

Furthermore, speaking of educational issues, in order to resolve, dissolve and even push forward to a better educational system in Alachua County, Mr. Heid made it very clear of his desire to implement many partnerships within the Gainesville community. His support of local partnerships was a key idea he stressed throughout the reception.

Even in his introductory speech he stated “Why Alachua?” and further explained that there are “a number of untapped partnerships”. And that these partnerships with institutions such as the University of Florida and service organizations can lead to both teacher and leadership development in the county.

He spoke about partnerships with the Boys and Girls Club, and the 21st century program for extended day programs to cut down the fiscal cost to run these programs at every school, and also ensuring that we are providing the opportunity to all students.

And when asked about his stance on fine arts in our schools, he was a proponent for such in which he stated that a “lack of exposure leads to limited opportunities”. A statement that could be used in reference to the idea of the need to provide the same opportunities to all students in the district, so that they may all have the same opportunities to be the best student possible.

In addition, there is no secret of the efforts that Alachua County has put forth towards the school to prison pipeline issue. Many community organizations’ platforms are propelling from this issue alone, and it is also a part of a national agenda. For instance, President Barack Obama’s support of the My Brother’s Keeper program is one of the many ways that we as a nation are attempting to dismantle this issue. Even the existence of our local Boys and Girls’ Clubs and YMCA’s are a way of ensuring that children have several outlets to become better citizens of this world.

Well when asked about the school to prison pipeline issue, Heid displayed what many may call a “zero tolerance” for violence and/or fighting in our schools. In which he explained that he would give students a 10 day suspension, however, within 24 hours he would speak with their parents about the issue- looking for a resolution to the problem so that it may be avoided in the future.

All in all, although I am not a proponent of suspensions in our school system, I do understand that they must be used for certain circumstances. And yet, I do applaud Mr. Heid for seeing the importance of the one on one interaction with parents, because too frequently in our school districts we allow students to miss several days of school, but we are not showing an active interest in their well being.
Furthermore, Heid was clear that he does not believe in arresting students and that in regards to discipline we must establish consistency from one student to the next. And as a principal, he explained that alongside his colleagues he laid out a specific rubric that detailed the consequences of each action, when deciding how a student should be reprimanded for certain behaviors.
“You have to be committed to the process, but also committed to the child” says Heid. And he further notes that we must practice restorative justice. Meaning a system in which we allow students a second chance, and focus on the development of the child and how they may move forward, rather than labeling them.
All in all, from what was said at the forum, it is safe to say that Mr. Heid is a believer in teamwork and he also appears to be a very transformative leader.

“Servant leadership is how I can help you to help the students… I never asked my teachers to do anything that I wasn’t able to do” says Mr. Heid when asked his definition of a servant leader.

Mr. Heid is one of the four finalists for the superintendent position in Alachua County schools, and he is the second official visit by a finalist.

The next visit will take place Wednesday, May 14th, at the Matheson Museum (513 E. University Avenue, Gainesville, Florida) from

Matheson Museum on East University Avenue

Matheson Museum on East University Avenue

6-7:30pm, and the featured candidate is Dr. Owen Roberts. I hope that you are able to join us in meeting this candidate so that you may be able to form your own opinions about the candidate. Is the candidate fit for this position? Do you believe this candidate will best serve the Alachua County School District?

About 40 people attended the last forum, but there are so many of you who would benefit from attending. Not only will you benefit, but your children, your families, and this school district would benefit from your overwhelming support.

With that being said, please let me know your thoughts! And email if you would like to serve as a guest blogger and let us know your thoughts whether it is on the superintendent search or anything about education!

Stay tuned, and stay informed!!!


Preparation for integration: A short story of appreciation

Brenda W. Brown

Brenda W. Brown

There are two educators who made a positive and yet challenging influence on me. My mother, Mrs. Juanita Washington, a retired educator, who instilled in me the desire to read and excel in school and Mrs. Helen Fletcher who made learning fun and challenging.
Mrs. Helen Fletcher (deceased) was my 6th grade teacher.  She didn’t let me get away with anything.  She expected excellence from me at all times.  She pounded me (literally) of the importance of education and  the need to excel at everything I did regarding my educational pursuits.
Picture it, in 1971 the schools in Savannah, Georgia were going to integrate for the first time.  Mrs. Fletcher prepared me and my classmates for this change in the national landscape of the public school system.  I didn’t know if I would be ready for the change.  Starting Junior High (now  known as middle school) was scary. I was 13 years old going to an all white neighborhood and school. I was forced out of my comfort zone.  We were not welcomed by the neighborhood. As our school bus pulled up to the school, we were welcomed by a line of police cars!  Riots were expected.  I was afraid to get off the bus!  Can you imagine being 13 years old, going through puberty and thrust into the local spotlight of the integration of schools?
The preparation I received from Mrs. Fletcher, toughened me against the prejudice I experienced not so much from the students, but from the teachers.  One in particular gave me detention for chewing gum in her class. When I couldn’t make the early morning detention (My dad had to be at work at 6am. My mom left at 5am for work and my only transportation to school was the bus!); the principal suspended me for the day! Does this sound familiar today?
1971 and some of the white teachers and administrators imposed harsh, severe and extreme corporal punishment measures against us black students.  My dad was very upset that he had to leave his job in the middle of the day (he probably got his pay docked) to pick me up from school. After a good “shellacking”, that was not a problem ever again.  I focused on my studies and made the transition from elementary school to junior high school.
Mrs. Fletcher and the other host of elementary school teachers and principals helped to prepare me for one of  the most significant milestones in the history of the US education system.  My love for learning has not diminished to this day!  I am now making the steps to become an educator myself and I will always have my mom and Mrs. Fletcher as my inspiration and role models on the unsung work of teachers.  I hope to be the kind of educator that will inspire my students to great things!  That is the legacy I want to leave for them and for my grandchildren.  “IF you can read, thank a teacher!”
-Brenda W. Brown, Future Educator


If you also have a story that you would like to share in appreciation of a teacher that inspired you, or any story of your experience with the United States educational system, please feel free to share with us at so that you too may be featured. I would like to give another special thank you to Ms. Brown for sharing her story with us. Please share your thoughts, or even what your grandparents and parents have shared with you about the culture of education in America, and how it changed upon the integration of schools. I know my mother has shared many stories about how it felt to be a student at that time.


I can’t wait to hear from you all, and to keep the conversation going!