Schools Superintendent Robert Avossa spent 40 minutes taking questions from journalism students at Santaluces High School. The students clearly came prepared.
During a freewheeling question-and-answer session broadcast live on Facebook, the students grilled the superintendent on a wide range of education topics, from teacher evaluations and open-enrollment rules to why high schools fund sports teams differently.
Avossa handled the questions deftly but had to sidestep some hot-button issues – including a question from a well-sourced student about Avossa’s yet-to-be-announced plans for changes to Odyssey Middle School.
The plans for overhauling the school are said to be far along, but Avossa cautiously maintained the district was still “studying” whether to convert it into a high school. (Efforts to convert Odyssey into a K-8 school two years ago were derailed by controversy).
During the interview, students got Avossa to take a shot at for-profit charter school companies (he called them “a disgrace”); admit it would be better to have students, not principals, rate teachers; and stick up for the cafeteria food.
You can check out video of the interview below or view it directly on the school district’s Facebook page.
Asked about his path to becoming a superintendent, he said it was one he never intended to take.
“I wanted to be a teacher for life and got pulled into leadership roles along the way,” he said.
He pulled few punches when asked about charter schools.
“The for-profit charter schools who wind up making money that’s sent back to a corporate office – it’s a disgrace,” he said.
“It’s not acceptable that money is being made on the backs of children in terms of profit. They tend to pay their teachers less, and the money they make tends to pay for buildings that they own. “
Asked by an online viewer about the state of the county’s cafeteria food, he stood by his chefs.
“Compared to the lunches your teachers and I ate as kids,” he said, “your lunches are in a much better place than they were in the 80s or some in the 90s.”
Avossa was clearly surprised by the focus on fine points of education policy. A question about a new rule creating open enrollment at under-capacity schools prompted an inauspicious comparison.
“You guys are seriously like at the Palm Beach Post level of questions,” he said, to laughter.
It was an observation seemingly left open to interpretation.