DeLAND, Fla. -- With Melody Johnson entrusted by her new and returning colleagues in a unanamious vote to elevate her from vice chair to chair and elevation of Linda Cuthbert to vice chair, along with John Hill, the re-election of previous chair Ida Duncan Wright and the election of Carl Persis, this is perhaps the most gifted school board lineup to date in this 21st century in setting policy for educational excellence in the Volusia County Schools.
Add to these five elected leaders, Superintendent of Schools Tom Russell and School Board Attorney Ted Doran and the potential to take the school district to the next level is clearly within grasp than at any previous point in time.
And Melody Johnson, who along with her husband, Nathan Johnson, adopted three sibling children to make a house a home in DeLand, then ran for a seat in 2014, against an entrenched incumbent, and won. Now, she is the chair. She and John Hill, who also won his seat in the same election cycle, are conservative when it comes to spending, but also supported increased funding expenditures enhancing the core mission of educating the district's students as demonstrated in working out a new contract and the end of labor strife over the summer with the teacher's union headed by Andrew Spar.
Johnson's top goal as outlined with Headline Surfer in a brief video interview after the swearing-in ceremony for Wright and Persis and other business at hand, is to take the school district from a B- to an A-grade rating as graded annually by the Florida Department of Education based on a complicated formula as a means of measuring academic success among the Sunshine' State's school districts.
That is something that is going to happen overnight, but it's not impossible as Johnson so eloquently points out in the interview: We went from a C to a B. I'd like to see us go to an A next."
Johnson is determined to see it through with leadership that encourages open communication and cohesion among the school board members as well as with Russell and his cabinet, led by district CEOGreg Akin; and with school principals, teachers and support staff.
Two years ago, it was John Hill, who stood tall, in following through on his campaign promise to makr changes at the top, leading to the sudden retirement of Superintendent Margaret Smith, who was long in the tooth, with the district seemengly settled in with a C rating.. Hill took heat from several militant parents, but stood his ground and the board then-led by Linda Costello, backed him. Then last year, Wright was given the chairmanship by her colleagues and Johnson was vice chair.
Costello decided not to seek another term and that opened the door for Persis to run in this election cycle. He is a former principal and Cuthbert is a former school teacher. Wright is an administrator at Bethune-Cookman University and so the line-up is very talented.