Persis emphasizes the need to help middle-school students stay focused.
After a few years of turmoil over teacher contracts, student uniforms and janitorial services, Volusia County Schools has appeared to hit a smooth patch, but many issues and decisions lie ahead for county residents and board officials.
Carl Persis, 67 of Ormond Beach, won election last year and will represent Zone 4 on the School Board in a four-year term. A graduate of Seabreeze High School, he earned undergraduate degrees from Daytona State College and the University of Central Florida and a master’s degree in educational leadership from Stetson University.
He recently discussed issues local schools face in coming years and some of his priorities.
When Persis served on the County Council, he said he was known for always looking at the budget and this interest will continue on the School Board.
He’ll be looking to find ways to spend tax money more efficiently, concentrating on technology, inventory, facilities, etc., rather than personnel costs.
“You have to have qualified people and have to pay them,” he said.
He would like to see a citizen’s budget advisory board created to give residents a say on how money is spent. There is a committee for the half-cent sales tax fund.
“We need an objective review by people not connected to education,” he said.
He said he was glad teachers got a raise in the two-year contract they signed last year, and the board should start looking to the future to figure how they can get another increase down the road.
“We should look at where money can be budgeted,” he said.
The personal touch
Persis feels strongly about getting the families of students involved. He said parents and grandparents should be welcomed into the schools.
“We have become so data driven that it’s easy to forget the importance of personal relationships,” he said. “We’re almost scared of not spending every minute on academic issues. We’ve lost our personal touch.”
One continuing concern is the cleanliness of schools. There are varying opinions on the subject, and Persis said what he hears is that it’s better at some schools than others. There is currently a “pretty good system” in place, he said, where teachers can send emails to the contracted company. He said he wants to get regular reports as a School Board member.
School uniforms were a hot topic last year before being implemented. Persis said he would like to see reports on any difficulties schools have had with the issue.
Another area Persis would like to explore is cooperation with area colleges. He envisions tutors from the colleges getting involved with the students and serving as mentors.
Also, he noted the Volusia Flagler YMCA has had a successful summer program at Turie T. Small Elementary School in Daytona Beach. Summer sessions are important, he said, to prevent the learning drop-off that sometimes occurs.
On the testing issue, he said the School Board has done a good job at reducing district testing and he would like to see it reduced even further. He also said the amount of homework should be looked at.
Persis believes that online learning is an important tool, mostly for the more motivated and advanced students. It allows them to go further and accelerate their learning.
There has been talk of creating a separate technical school in Volusia County, but Persis does not think it would be necessary if the right steps are taken to introduce students to career possibilities early in their educational career.
“There’s a lot of options for students to learn careers,” he said. “Before we build a separate high school, we need to look at what we have and figure out what we can do differently.”
He said schools need to do better in letting students know about jobs that don’t require a four-year degree, especially at the seventh-grade level. He called that age a turning point, and some kids lose interest if they don’t see a place for themselves.
Schools should help the middle-school students find a career that matches their abilities and likes and dislikes.
“It’s a passion of mine,” he said. “We’ve got to give them some hope.”
“We’re almost scared of not spending every minute on academic issues. We’ve lost our personal touch.”
CARL PERSIS, newly-elected School Board member
Carl Persis was a Volusia County Schools principal for 27 years, an assistant principal for three years and a teacher for five years. He has served on the Volusia County Council and as mayor and city commissioner of Ormond Beach.