From ‘learning to read’ to ‘reading to learn.’

By Superintendent Van Ayres

I am grateful that last month the school board unanimously approved my appointment as Superintendent of Hillsborough County Public Schools. I appreciate their confidence, and I look forward to continuing to work with the amazing team of educators we have here in Hillsborough County.

My heart is, and always has been, in Hillsborough County. This school district is my second home. I grew up in Tampa and graduated from Jefferson High School. It was there I discovered my love for learning and science. In fact, when I graduated from the University of Tampa, I became a chemistry teacher. My parents, who were both educators in our district, instilled my love for education.

Now, to my priorities for this district, and for your children. My priorities run the spectrum from early childhood learning and literacy to graduation rates. Ensuring students are in front of a high-quality teacher at a very young age is so important to their education. Learning their letters and phonics will get them ready for kindergarten and put them on a path where they will have the skills they need to be proficient by third grade. After third grade is when kids go from ‘learning to read’ to ‘reading to learn.’

Raising the graduation rate is also a priority for my team and is a large part of our district’s strategic plan. A high school diploma opens so many doors for students in life. Our graduation rate has steadily increased over the past six years, and I am committed to not just maintaining that trend but also increasing it.

It is also my job to oversee the fiscal and operational responsibilities of the district. Our budget is nearly $4 billion, and we are the largest employer in Hillsborough County. I hold our staff accountable for every dollar spent to make the best use of our budget. I am proud of the recent negotiations with our teachers and staff and ensuring they receive their raises as early in the year as possible.

Lastly, you may have heard our district motto this year, which is Hillsborough Strong. I am a big believer in culture. Strong culture, good teamwork and a happy workplace are very important to me. We have outstanding principals and administrators in our schools who make sure culture among staff is a top priority. I appreciate them for keeping culture at the forefront of their decision-making.

We are Hillsborough Strong in this district. Everybody matters, and every day matters. And that is how we are going to keep moving Hillsborough County Public Schools in the right direction as one of the best school districts in this country.

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