From: “Byrd, Jacqueline”
Date: January 15, 2020 at 1:42:31 PM EST
To: “All Staff (Restricted Use)”
Subject: Let’s Move Forward Together

Dear Polk County Public Schools Staff,

These have been a challenging few days for our organization, and now we must begin to heal.

I’ve spent the last several days contemplating where we go from here. What can I, as your leader, do to bridge the divides within our organization? What can I do to help us become a better, stronger school district?

The first thing I can do is apologize for the email from the Florida Department of Education that was forwarded to all staff on Friday evening. The email was sent in the spirit of transparency. In hindsight, I could have explained my intentions. If I had it to do over again, I would make it clear why I had contacted the FDOE in the first place, why I was sharing the email, and that no teacher would face firing or retaliation for taking Monday off. (Please see the Q&A we published here for more information:

None of us are infallible. We can all look back and say, “I wish I had done this differently.” This is one of those instances for me.

I want to reiterate that no employee will be disciplined in any way for taking time off on Monday, January 13, 2020. Even if taking the day put you in without-pay status, you will not face any form of discipline.

The second thing I can do is give you my time and attention. Over the next several months, I will meet with teachers, listen to their concerns, brainstorm solutions and strategies, and do everything I can to share what we learn both within our organization and the broader community. Teachers made their voices heard on Monday; I commit to amplifying their voices during the remainder of the legislative session and beyond.

I’ll share more information on my upcoming listening engagements with you in the near future.

For now, I’d like to thank everyone who provided coverage to our classrooms this week, including school based and district based staff members, substitute teachers, bus drivers and attendants, Polk County Sheriff’s Office and personnel from our other local law enforcement agencies, and school volunteers. With so many who helped, I am sure I’m leaving someone out. This is not intentional; you have my sincere thanks.

It is now time to move forward together, in pursuit of the shared purpose we all live every day: to deliver high-quality education to the students of Polk County.

We are an organization on the rise. We have two consecutive years of a B district grade. Our graduation rate just reached a new record of 81.2 percent. We continue to break ground on the educational facilities of Polk County’s future. We are just beginning to see the effects of our landmark School Discipline and Behavior Response Plan ripple through our district.

We have achieved these things together. Working together we will achieve so much more.

I am honored to work alongside you and to serve as your superintendent.