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Port Orange Observer Tuesday, Jul. 23, 2019 4 weeks ago

Volusia County Schools Interim Superintendent Tim Egnor wants to prioritize student achievement

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The former Spruce Creek High School principal is also focusing on rebuilding trust.
by: Tanya Russo Staff Writer

Tim Egnor has a deep sense of loyalty to the Volusia County School District.

He started out as a high school social studies teacher at Spruce Creek High School. His wife is a Florida native and his children graduated from Volusia County schools. He has worked in the District for almost 30 years in various positions, the last 12 of which as the head principal at Spruce Creek High School.

Egnor was also the first coordinator for the IB program at Spruce Creek. He said he wants to bring trust and transparency to his position as interim superintendent. The Port Orange Observer spoke with Egnor on July 10, and this what he had to say about his new position.

Q: What experience, strength, and hope will you bring to this position?

A: I think to some degree where I have been successful is establishing strong, trusting teams. When I try to build a team, I make sure they clearly understand that the priority is student learning. We have to really push away all the drama and the other factors that get in the way and reduce the politics as much as possible.

I tend to be able to prioritize things in a manner that pushes student achievement. Student achievement is not an accident, especially when you’re working with students who come from disadvantaged backgrounds, traditionally the non-learners for one reason or another. They have to believe you’re on their side and your mission’s pure, and this is a place where they want to be.

If you’re not an honest broker, or you’re not trustworthy or any of the other things that work against that mission, it really hurts student learning. I take the mission very seriously and tend to bite into something and shake it until it works loose. That’s the kind of attitude I have about making sure our kids learn.

Q: How would you address community distrust, and how would you change that perception?

A: One of the things I have already started to institute is greater transparency. We have a lot of information on our website, but I have instructed several of the departments, including budget, over time, to increase our transparency that is readily available to the public. Once I have that on track at the district level, I will be reaching down to the schools to institute some type of transparency program there. 

The idea of transparency has more to do with not surprising people than it does anything else. It also has to do with access to information.

Sometimes when you’re in an atmosphere of mistrust, people are hesitant to be forthcoming. They don’t feel like it will be a civil discussion. They feel like they’ll be attacked. If we reduce the drama, increase the trust, then the dialogues will be more rich and people will be less suspicious. That’s the atmosphere that I am going to promote.

Q: What are some of the challenges facing the schools?

A:  Re-establishing trust. One of the ways to do that is to review our line and staff structures and the way we do business in such a manner that we are more responsive, our communications are improved, even internally, how we work within the district.

We are about to re-structure the whole curriculum department. It’s a plan that was put in motion a few months ago. That will create a situation much easier to address priorities and there will be better communication. That’s the kind of approach that I want to take. 

Q: What would you like students, parents and staff to understand about the schools?

A: For those who have misgivings, I hope to foster a sense they really can trust the schools. We work in the best interest of their students. Schools are places of learning and that is the highest priority.

Even if we disagree or make a mistake, it was good intentions behind the mistake. We will own up to it and make corrections as best we can. I hope all voices will be heard, and heard at a more equal level.

Q: What will be the best part of being the interim superintendent?

A: I have been very impressed with the professionalism with whom I’ve been in contact with in the last couple of weeks. They do not misunderstand the mission at all. They are all about making sure that kids are served, and served well. I thought, “Wow, that’s a big part of the job I don’t have to worry about because they’re right there with me already.” That has been fun, and exciting, and sharing great ideas.

Q: Are you going to apply for the permanent superintendency?

A: I would never say never because I don’t know what could happen. I genuinely have no intension of doing so, frankly, because I believe in the interim process. Right now, I have a unique opportunity to walk into the situation which has some issues which need to be resolved. I can be the correction agent at this time. If I can help and contribute to making the environment a little better, then that means that the board can have superstars applying for the permanent position.

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