CEO Message

It was great to see everyone at FADSS Spring Leadership Conference a few weeks ago. I have said before that there is no other education conference that provides Florida superintendents with the connection, information sharing, and simple camaraderie that we experience when we are all together face-to-face. A FADSS meeting is a very unique and vital part of the ongoing high-quality professional development that our association provides to Florida superintendents, and it cannot be rivaled by any other meeting or conference.


From all the comments I heard at the conference, as well as the feedback surveys, it is clear that we have once again held another successful conference. I want to thank each member of the FADSS team and each of you for your role in making the Spring Conference such a success!


It’s so encouraging to see superintendents who are the true leaders of Florida’s education system work together to address complicated and critical issues. It’s refreshing to see how superintendents not only work together, but obviously you enjoy the camaraderie of your peers.


I also want to thank FADSS business partners for the role they play in supporting our association – both our annual and associate partners. FADSS is fortunate to have 32 Annual Partners that support our association year-round (Platinum, Gold, and Silver). These companies provide quality products and services to school districts, and their support of Florida district school superintendents and public education is invaluable and greatly appreciated. To learn more about all the companies that support FADSS, you can access the Spring Conference Digital Directory via this link.


I hope the remainder of the school year goes smoothly for you, and as always, do not hesitate to reach out if I or any member of the FADSS team can assist you.


Thank you for your dedication, service, and commitment to Florida public school students!

Yours in education,


Legislative Update

By Brian Moore, FADSS General Counsel

With the 2024 legislative session having ended on March 8, 2024, we are now in the process of waiting for all of the bills to get signed and thinking about how best to implement these new laws before the next school year starts. The Legislature passed 325 bills, but, as of April 17, 2024, only 132 had been presented to the Governor for his signature. So far, he has signed 102 bills into law and vetoed two (2). Thus, school districts will need to wait awhile longer until all of the bills, including the budget, have been presented to the Governor.

Looking at the education-related bills from the 2024 Session, several important bills have already been approved. These include bills related to coaches, bronchodilators, and the history of communism. The Governor has also approved a multi-subject bill that addresses turnaround schools, charter school enrollment preferences, making the ASVAB available to 11th and 12th graders, dropout prevention programs, elected superintendent salaries, and more.

On the horizon, districts will want to watch for the approval of the deregulation bills; the GATE Program for students who might otherwise withdraw from school without the ability to secure a good job; this year’s school safety bill; and, of course, the budget.


The legislative session was early this year, so there is no rush to approve all the bills, because most do not take effect until July 1, 2024. However, districts should not wait until all the bills are approved or take effect before planning for the 2024-25 school year. Just between all the new school safety requirements and the new options created by some of the deregulation measures, districts will have plenty to digest and need to start sharing information with all of their stakeholders as soon as possible.


Third Annual Lieutenant Governor’s Space Art Contest

The Third Annual Lieutenant Governor’s Space Art Contest is an education initiative designed to encourage interest in Science, Technology Engineering, Art and Mathematics (STEAM). This year’s theme – Suit Up! Florida’s Space Suit of the Future – gives students creative control to engineer the space suit of tomorrow. “I am excited to see the innovative and futuristic designs our young artists will bring to life.” said Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nuñez.

The contest is open to students in Grades K-5 and the submission deadline is 5:00 p.m. on Friday, May 24, 2024. Contest guidelines and entry form can be found HERE.

Highlights from FADSS 2024 Spring Conference

By Katrina Figgett, FADSS Director of Training

Working Together for Student Success

The FADSS 2024 Spring Conference got off to a great start in sunny Orlando with a keynote presentation from Rachel Ludwig, Vice President of Talent Development for Future Work, at the Florida Chamber of Commerce. Though Rachel’s real claim to fame is that she drove the famous Oscar Mayer Wienermobile across the USA in her role as a “Hotdogger” after college graduation, today she leads the Florida Chamber Foundation’s initiatives to improve the state’s talent pipeline, a key component of Florida’s 2030 Blueprint to become the 10th largest global economy by 2030 (currently Florida ranks 15th). 

Rachel shared some incredibly interesting facts and statistics about the Florida workforce economy, the following are a few that stood out:

  • For every 78 Floridians seeking work there are 100 job openings.
  • The population is declining of those aged 9 and under, those aged 25-35 (the new talent pool), and those aged 50-60 (the top GDP contributors).
  • The most important issues facing Florida (according to Chamber members) are the information gap between employers and job seekers, infrastructure needs, insurance costs, and the lack of affordable housing in many communities.
  • Over 50% of Florida’s 737,567 children living in poverty live in only 15% of Florida’s 983 zip codes. 
  • VPK programs play a crucial role in kindergarten readiness - 64% of VPK completers are kindergarten ready as opposed to 36% of non-completers.
  • Of the top 10 high demand careers forecast for 2030, 4 require a bachelor’s degree, 1 an associate degree, 2 some post-secondary education, and 3 a high school diploma. 
  • In 2023 a record 19,605 Floridians served as active apprentices and pre-apprentices – an increase of 14%.
  • Graduates who complete an apprenticeship earned an average exit wage of $25.70/hr. ($53,642/yr.).

There is much more information available broken down by district at The Florida Scorecard. With a primary focus of the Future of Work Florida Initiative being on cultivating partnerships amongst the business community, workforce, and those in education, Rachel is happy to come and speak to both district staff and school boards. She can be reached at

Importance of the Arts in Education

Christopher Burns, President of the Florida Music Supervision Association (FMSA), who also serves as the Fine and Performing Arts Resource Specialist in Osceola County, came and gave a short and lively presentation that reminded everyone of how important the arts are in education for all students, and why there is a need for every district to have a district level Arts supervisor position and be involved in the statewide Arts organizations.

Christopher shared data about the positive correlations between students SAT mathematics and verbal scores and increasing music credits, as well as the benefits of district arts leadership, including implementation and coordination for the new Seal of Fine Arts, effective for next school year’s graduates.

Information on the work of FMSA and their umbrella organization the Florida Music Education Association can be found at


B.R.A.V.E. Program – Partnering for Student Mental Health

We were all grateful to Paige Stanton, Executive Director of Care Connect+ at UF Health, Kyle Dresback, Regional Superintendent for Secondary and Alternative Schools, and Paul Abbatinozzi, Associate Superintendent for Student Support Services (both from St. Johns), for sharing the innovative model for mental health support Be Resilient and Voice Emotions (B.R.A.V.E.).

Started in 2019, B.R.A.V.E. has expanded to currently serve 7 school districts with plans to expand to 9 more with continued state funding. 

B.R.A.V.E. provides comprehensive navigation services for school districts to connect youth to behavioral health services, timely ongoing support for families and providers, and a unified intake process to the most appropriate services for students and their families. There is a 94% satisfaction rating on mental health services provided through the B.R.A.V.E. program.

Time is of the essence when dealing with mental health issues, and the program is rightly proud of the fact that it takes on average 15 days from referral until the first appointment with a mental health provider (the national average is 42 days). B.R.A.V.E. has also been able to help school districts maintain over an 85% success rate in engaging students in mental health services, more than 5.5 times the national standard.

The positive impact in St. Johns has been a significant decline in youth suicide rates – 1.5 per 10,000 residents in 2022 opposed to the state average of 2.3 per 10,000. 

For more information on partnering with B.R.A.V.E. please reach out to Paige Stanton,


District Innovation Presentations

Feedback from previous conferences has shown that the CEO Leadership Development Program (CEOLDP) Leadership Challenges shared by superintendents are always a highlight for their peers. This conference’s feedback was no exception with praise for the work that Dr. Diane Gullett, Superintendent of Marion County and John Stratton, Superintendent of Hernando County have undertaken in their districts.

Diane was presented with a number of challenges, or opportunities, depending on your viewpoint. As the first appointed superintendent in Marion County and an outsider, her challenge was to creating a data-informed culture focusing on solid Tier 1 instruction designed to move the district from the bottom third to the top third in the State.

To improve student achievement, Diane set out to create a career pipeline, a course of study of professional learning, and a robust recruitment/retention plan for a high-impact diverse workforce to positively impact student outcomes as measured by the district’s strategic plan goals. This meant taking the lead, being the instructional leader in the district, focusing on the instructional core, tightly-coupling systems of support and collaboration, and engaging with evidence-based learning partners. As Diane says courage is needed to make change, you need to leverage the coalition of the willing but also be prepared that not everyone will get on board. However, at the end of that day the needed changes must happen so that students have the best opportunities to succeed.

Hernando is a B district but when John examined the grade by subgroup it was apparent that Students with Disabilities (SWD) were achieving far below their peers. John’s CEOLDP Leadership Challenge began with the decision that a focus on closing the achievement gap was key to ensuring that all students moved toward proficiency. He therefore put together an Achievement Gap Committee made up of School Board members, district and school-based administrators, ESE staff, and teachers, as well as himself. The Achievement Gap Committee examined all the available district data and identified possible root causes. Problems were then themed and the creation of four task force teams emerged. Each task force team identified data metrics that would be used to evaluate the effectiveness of their initiatives. 


An ESE best practices, or “look-fors”, group was added to the district walkthrough observation process. This group specifically targeted inclusion, resource, and self-contained settings, and reviewed the data with the school and district level staff. Graduation rates have risen consistently for SWDs over the last 4 years due in large part to the work of the Achievement Gap Committee and the graduation rate gap between SWD and Non-SWD students continues to close.  


The Power and Science of Hope

Rounding out the conference, and leaving everyone uplifted, Dr. Karen Barber, Superintendent, Santa Rosa County shared a presentation that included components she has used in graduation speeches (I’m sure several will be borrowed by other superintendents for the same purpose!).

In his TED talk The Science and Power of Hope, University of Oklahoma professor Chan Hellman examines the research showing that hope can be measured, and is the single biggest predictor of well-being across the life span. Outcomes in students from increasing hope include better attendance and raised grade point averages, graduation rates, and college going rates. He discusses how trauma affects hope, and how we can intentionally nurture hope. The video is available here.

Karen shared some of the ways that Santa Rosa has put in place tools and resources to help students and teachers nurture hope in order to be successful. From a purposeful vision and mission statement to success coaches, the Teacher Academy, the Hope Squad, increased career and technical education programming, and broadcast classrooms, the commitments by faculty and students have allowed the district to close the opportunity gap for ESOL, homeless, and justice involved youth.

The performance of Invictus by Mrs. Fishetti’s class at Navarre High School with which Karen ended the presentation, demonstrated just how powerful hope and resilience can be in enabling students to learn and achieve.

Thank you to FADSS

2023 - 2024 Annual Business Partners

Download the FADSS 2023-2024 Annual Business Partner Directory HERE
Florida Association of District School Superintendents
208 South Monroe Street
Tallahassee, FL 32301
Be sure to follow FADSS on Twitter/X [@PublicSchoolSup] and tag FADSS in your district tweets so we can share the great stories and happenings in Florida public schools across our state!
Visit our website
Contact Us