VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. – Teachers and students at Volusia County Schools head back to the classroom on Monday, and this year, the district is under new leadership with a newly appointed superintendent.
“It feels great to be back in Volusia,” Dr. Carmen Balgobin said.
Though she’s the new superintendent, Balgobin is no stranger to Volusia County Schools.
“As the deputy superintendent here for two and a half years, I had the opportunity of working with staff and really getting to know the community,” she said.
She stepped in as superintendent during the pandemic while the former superintendent, Dr. Scott Fritz, went on medical leave. She then left the district for a year to work in Broward County but when the school board suddenly fired Fritz in April, they brought her back.
“I met approximately with over 400 employees in all divisions based on where we were and where we were heading,” Balgobin said. “And that’s where we came up with as a team to say, ‘You know… moving forward, we’re going to be leading with grace and respect.’”
Balgobin said two of her top goals are to fill two gaps.
One is to fill the learning gap still lingering from the pandemic when students had to resort to virtual education methods and the other is to hire more teachers. Currently, the district has over 200 instructional vacancies.
“When the school starts, every single classroom will have a teacher. If that means we have to look at some district personnel to fill in temporarily until we hire, then we’ll do so,” she said.
The district leaders made other big changes over the summer, too. Now, breakfast and lunch will be free for all students in Volusia County.
They also worked with law enforcement to create new emergency action plans so now, each campus has a dispatch radio for direct access to law enforcement. All teachers must also keep their classrooms locked now.
“Every single one of our schools has SRDs or SROs or a guardian (who is) armed,” Balgobin said.
She added they also reworked middle schools so students will rotate between teacher teams that work together and the first dual language programs are opening in the county at two schools this year: Spirit Elementary School in Deltona and Holly Hill School in Holly Hill.
“The ultimate goal is to provide the curriculum in both languages, English and Spanish. So it’s about promoting bilingualism and biliteracy,” she said.
As for buses, which have been a big problem for many districts with the lack of drivers, Balgobin said they only have eight vacancies left so all routes will be covered.