By Tamas Mondovics

Superintendent Jeff Eakins was recently joined by school board members to explain his goals for the upcoming school year during the annual back to school news conference, held this year at Mort Elementary, A Community School.

The event took place just two days before the start of the 2016-2017 season, which saw more than 200,000 students return to the classroom at the nation’s eighth largest school district.
To begin, Mort Principal Woodland Johnson called on school board chair April Griffin who put things in perspective when she said, “I know we had an abbreviated summer but that just means that we really didn’t get out of the school spirit and we are all excited to get back.”

Taking his turn, Eakins reminded his audience that during his first year at the helm, the board went through a lot of changes and growth as a district but that his current, full team is now in place ready to work on the district’s strategic plan, including the four top priorities he introduced one year ago.

“We are excited as now this plan will guide us to focus on these priorities,” Eakins said, adding that one of the biggest goals is to increase graduation rates.

“By the year 2020, we are aiming for the graduation rate of 90 percent,” Eakins said. “This rate is unheard of in a district this size, but it will happen because of the people in Hillsborough County.”

Eakins said that one of the main things to reach his goals of graduation rate is to understand that every child counts and that the job of each teacher is to know their students and their needs.

Speaking once again about the support in place for the more than 16,000 strong faculty, Eakins promised, “Every teacher will receive the support and the tools they need, when they need it, at their school site, so that they can best meet the needs of the most important client we serve; our students.”

The news conference would not be complete without a discussion about transportation, which has reportedly earned some low ratings at the start of the 2015-2016 season.

“We obviously had some issues that needed to be addressed immediately,” Eakins said, but added that under Transportation Director Jim Beekman, communication and routing issues have been addressed.

Eakins emphasized that for the district to achieve its goals, each member must believe it can be attained. The press conference concluded with the ribbon cutting for Mort Elementary, A Community School. Visit

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