District Administration - February 2012 - (Page 20)

Superintendent Sherrie B. nickell, polk county (Fla.) puBlic SchoolS AdministratorProfile A Surprise Award for AP Excellence By Jennifer E. Chase Describing her 2,000-squaremile district in Polk county, Fla., superintendent sherrie nickell says the district is “larger than some states!” Located in the heart of central Florida, the county is known for pristine lakes and aromatic citrus groves that sit between the vacation hotspots of Tampa and Orlando. but in Polk county Public schools, it’s all business, all the time. “it takes work to maintain a school system, rather than a system of schools,” says nickell. “each community wants its schools to be special, and its students to have the very best in opportunity. We strive to strike a delicate balance between standardization, which aides efficiency, and customization, which aides effectiveness.” That kind of balance isn’t easy in a district with 17 municipalities. but in the two years since she’s been the chief, nickell has bridged physical and cultural gaps created by Polk’s challenging size. calling it a minority/majority district, she says more than half of Polk’s students affiliate with traditional minority groups and speak 87 different languages. since students live in both urban and very remote locations, bus rides can be short jaunts or last more than an hour. collectively, students travel 53,000 miles a day. The district was also under federal court supervision for many years for desegregation purposes. a collection of magnet schools was created to bring nonminority students into predominantly minority neighborhoods. “These programs have been tremendously successful in accomplishing their intended purpose,” says nickell. The district was 20 February 2012 Polk county’s 177 school buildings, and elevate the overall achievement of the district’s diverse student population. AP Excellence in December 2011, the college board named Polk the winner of its 2011 advanced Placement equity and excellence District of the Year award in the large district category. The district was recognized for simultaneously increasing its number of advanced Placement (aP) classes, as well as the number of minority students taking the tests. From 2009 to 2011, Polk county Public schools increased the number of students participating in aP classes from 3,365 to 4,802—a 19 percent increase—without experiencing a drop in the percentage of students who earned a score of 3 or better. The percentage of students in the aP program who were considered traditionally underserved minority students— african-american, hispanic/Latino, or american indian/alaska native—rose from 28 to 31 percent in the same time period. and minority students scoring a 3 or higher rose from 21 to 24 percent. “The award was not expected,” says nickell. “We have been so busy working that we were not even aware that the college board was looking at our data and comparing us with other large districts. What an honor. and what a tribute to our hardworking teachers!” Recognizing Deficiencies During the 2005-2006 school year, nickell—who was then the district’s associate superintendent for learning—and fellow administrators found data that showed District Administration Superintendent Sherrie Nickell addresses students at Valleyview Elementary School in the Polk County Public Schools. honored recently for academic programming that nickell and her staff created to unite the students learning across Sherrie B. Nickell Superintendent, Polk County (Fla.) Public Schools Age: 53 Salary: $180,000 Tenure: 2 years Students: 94,000 Staff and faculty: 12,032 Schools: 117 Per-pupil expenditure: $6,132 Web site: www.polk-fl.net http://www.polk-fl.net

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of District Administration - February 2012

District Administration - February 2012
Contents
From the Editor
News Update
District Profile
Administrator Profile
Conversations
Product Focus
What Can U.S. Schools Learn From Foreign Counterparts?
A New Prescription for Fighting Drug Abuse
The Game Changer
The Legal Implications of Surveillance Cameras
CIO News
Mobile Devices Drive Creative Instruction
Products
Crisis Response
Professional Opinion
Problem/Solution
New Directions

District Administration - February 2012

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