Engaging Students from the Beginning
A superintendent who guides his district to make a difference from birth
by Dr. Rod Berger
Dr. Walt Griffin, Superintendent of Seminole County Public Schools, just north of Orlando, had an epiphany on March 8, 2013 about how his district can reach out to the very youngest in the community. On that day, he was at a local hospital, having just become a grandfather and while talking to other new grandparents, it became clear just how many single mothers were giving birth.
Walt’s eye opening moment became the genesis of the district’s Great Start program. The program reaches out to every family with a newborn in Seminole County with a care package that includes literacy learning tips, phone numbers for medical, mental health and family services and even a bib with the class year on it (Class of 2034 for this year’s babies).
It’s all done to remind parents and caregivers to start thinking about school and graduation from the very beginning. As Walt puts it, “I think we have an opportunity here to reach out to families the day the infants are born to start developing trust and connection at a very young age so that they are comfortable with our district.”
Walt’s way of thinking and action has turned the district around since he took over in 2012. Before Walt arrived, the only time parents heard from anyone at the school or district was when their child was in trouble. Programs like Great Start and others, like the new Career & Technical Education program, are vastly improving the district by connecting with both parents and students from the earliest stages of life through graduation and beyond.
About Dr. Walt Griffin:
Dr. Walt Griffin was appointed Superintendent of Seminole County Schools on July 1, 2012. Dr. Griffin began his career as an Algebra teacher. Dr. Griffin moved through the ranks of Seminole County Public Schools serving in many roles including teacher, assistant principal and principal.
He is a two time Florida Department of Education “Turnaround Principal” raising the rankings of both Millennium Middle School and Seminole High School by two letter grades. Since taking over as Superintendent, Seminole County is ranked #1 in the state in Advanced STEM education, career/vocational education has quadrupled and Seminole county has maintained an “A” rating from the Department of Education.
This article was originally posted in the Huffington Post by Dr. Rod Berger.