New St. Lucie County superintendent talks challenges, goals for education
Students in the St. Lucie Public Schools system will have a new leader next school year.
Deputy Superintendent Dr. Jon Prince will take over the district's top job once current Superintendent Wayne Gent retires this summer.
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"This is a dream opportunity," Prince told WPTV education reporter Stephanie Susskind on Friday. "It’s a dream job in the sense that I love where I live and I love this community."
And now Prince wants to get to know that community even better as the leader of St. Lucie Public Schools.
"It's really about going out and listening. We need to partner with our parents," Prince said.
Prince, who's spent 30 years in public education and seven as the deputy superintendent of St. Lucie Public Schools, calls current Superintendent Gent a mentor, paving the way for his success.
"He really does a good job of helping me see around corners and anticipate problems because of the experience," Prince said. "I think I’m ready for it, but you are never really ready until you are in the role."
It's that teamwork that Prince feels led school board members to forgo a national superintendent search and instead select him for the job.
"The continuity was really important to the board," Prince said. "That relationship and that trusting relationship, it’s a testimony that they believe in the direction that we’re going."
Prince said the school district's biggest challenge will be putting COVID-19 behind them while also dealing with the aftermath.
"How do we develop robust opportunities for our students after school, during school, over the summer, to recapture what was lost?" Prince said. "Also trying to balance that with teacher burnout."
Prince's promotion comes at a time when St. Lucie County is seeing substantial growth.
"We anticipate thousands of additional seats in the next five to 10 years. We have to anticipate that development with all the single-family homes going up," Prince said. "St. Lucie County has done a great job of attracting industries, and schools are real important pieces of that because you can’t attract industry without having trust and confidence in the trajectory of the school district."
Prince said that by 2027, St. Lucie Public Schools is planning two new schools in the Tradition area, and his goal is to make St. Lucie County a destination district.
"I want families to move here because of the schools. I want families to move here because of the communities. Our school district has never performed better, but our best days, I do believe, are in front of us," Prince said.
Prince and the school board still need to negotiate and finalize his contract. He will continue in his deputy superintendent role until Gent retires on June 30.
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