Blackburn leaves superintendent post for national education nonprofit
Brevard Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Desmond Blackburn chats with a resident at a recent town hall meeting.
Jill Blue Gaines
SPECIAL TO VIERA VOICE
Superintendent Desmond Blackburn submitted his resignation May 14 to the Brevard County School Board, giving 90 days’ notice. He will become CEO of a national nonprofit organization that improves public education by training and mentoring new teachers.
“We wish Dr. Blackburn and his family the very best,” said School Board Chairman John Craig. “We thank him for his leadership in the community and the positive impact he has had on our schools and children.”
Blackburn has served as superintendent of BPS since 2015. Under his leadership, the school district improved in several ways:
· More students earned satisfactory state test scores in “gatekeeper” subjects such as third-grade reading and high school algebra and English.
· The district invested more in career and technical education, including manufacturing, construction and health care.
· BPS introduced a new discipline plan that ensures consistent and equitable punishment from one school to the next.
· The district reduced debt and earned strong credit ratings for conservatively managing its finances.
· BPS leaders strengthened relationships with cities and Brevard’s legislative delegation.
During the past year, Blackburn also worked with the school board and the Brevard Sheriff’s Office to strengthen school security. Principals now routinely notify police of threats made by students. And the school board accelerated the installation of security fencing and other equipment that create a “single point of access” at each school.
Blackburn was tapped by Gov. Rick Scott to serve as the only superintendent on the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission, charged with studying the mass shooting in Parkland and recommending policy improvements. A week before that tragedy, Blackburn led a contingent of student-government presidents from Brevard high schools on a one-day trip to Tallahassee where the students lobbied legislators to expand mental-health services at all Florida campuses. Blackburn said he would like to continue his work on the public-safety commission.
After leaving BPS, Blackburn will become chief executive officer of the California-based New Teacher Center, a national nonprofit “focused on improving student learning by accelerating the effectiveness of teachers and school leaders.” The organization is not a BPS contractor. It describes its work as partnering with states, school districts, and policymakers to:
· Create sustainable mentoring and training programs for educators.
· Enhance teaching conditions.
· Improve teacher retention.
· Improve school performance.
“I am extremely honored to have the opportunity to lead NTC,” said Blackburn, who will be based in Florida. “As both an educator and district leader, I have a thorough understanding of the challenges that teachers face in the classroom, the responsibilities of school leaders and the important role that mentors and coaches play to help educators.”
Craig said the school board will start its conversation about a search for a new superintendent during a workshop.
In his letter of resignation, Blackburn wrote: “To my Space Coast family, the residents of Brevard County, please know that serving you has been an honor and an absolute pleasure. From my very first day, all sectors of this community have welcomed me with wide-open arms. You welcomed me into your businesses; you welcomed me into your community functions; you welcomed me into your fundraising efforts for worthy causes; you welcomed me into your churches; and you even welcomed me into your homes. You epitomize ‘class’ and I will miss all of you dearly.”
Contact: Matt Reed, assistant superintendent/PIO