Leon County’s newly elected school superintendent has a lot on his plate as he begins his first term in office. Rocky Hanna laid out his priority list this week to a meeting of the League of Women Voters.
November’s election, in which Hanna defeated long-time Superintendent Jackie Pons, was one of the nastiest local political contests in recent memory. But Hanna told the group he knew it was in the bag during the final week when he met a young supporter who’d been waiting hours to get Hanna’s autograph.
“My name’s Ian,” Hanna said, imitating the young man’s enthusiasm. “I’m in fourth grade. I go to DeSoto Trail. I watched the debate. You were AWESOME!!!”
Hanna won and now admits the non-stop schedule and responsibilities of the superintendent’s office is a bit like “trying to drink water from a firehose” in his words. Still, he said he’s adjusting to the pace and ticked off several top priorities as he begins his initial term.
“Money, teacher morale, and the over-testing of our kids are my three top platform items.”
This was nationally recognized as “School Choice Week”. Hanna says he welcomes the competition of charter schools, but worries about the impact the expansion of those and fully private schools might have on traditional public school funding. At the same time, there is the new dimension of kids from neighboring troubled school districts coming into Leon’s system.
“The number of kids that are going to leave Jefferson to come to Leon and the number of kids that are going to leave Gadsden and come to Leon County, we don’t know what to expect,” Hanna said.
Of course, according to the state-imposed school grading system, Leon County has some “troubled” schools of its own. And Hanna said that drives him to distraction.
“To compare some of our Southside schools to some of our Northside schools and to say that some of our schools down there are failures – they’re ‘D’ schools; they’re ‘F’ schools – they’re GREAT schools!,” he insisted vehemently. “They’re just working with some really tough situations and some challenges and the teachers that teach in these schools, God bless ‘em!”
Hanna promised more help for those teachers. And the very day of his talk he was meeting with Tallahassee City Commissioner Gil Ziffer to revive an idea that his predecessor had left languish.
“(It’s) The community schools concept and how we can work together as government partners instead of doing this, how we can come together and it doesn’t matter who gets the credit and how we can do what’s right in our community in one of our Southside schools,” he said.
And getting back to the election, Hanna had at one point been quoted by the Tallahassee Democrat as favoring an appointed rather than an elected schools superintendent. He’s now rethought that position.
“I think now our elected system of superintendent is fine, but I am dead set on making it non-partisan,” he stressed.
After a quick meeting with several League members and other community representatives, Rocky Hanna raced off to grab a few more gulps from that wide-open firehouse that he says is the Leon County School Superintendent’s job.