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Visionary and Committed Leadership:
"The Florida Online High School began four years ago to serve students who were looking for different or supplemental course not available in the traditional schools, and to provide rural schools with Advanced Placement courses available in more populated communities. We grew out of a unique partnership between two school districts, Alachua and Orange counties, which were looking for solutions to provide their students with a higher quality of education. This lead to a management structure based on a democratic decision-making process rather than the traditional "top down" approach typical for school. When we began, we had two principals, two school boards, and one overarching advisory board. This management framework made it challenging to provide the school's staff and students with the necessary leadership for success.
For almost two years, the joint leadership team shared responsibilities, including lobbying efforts to secure state funding as well as the day-to-day operations of the school. However, as our school evolved and grew, this management structure proved challenging, and we decided that changes were needed. The operation of the school was evaluated and a needs assessment was conducted. The result was a restructuring of the leadership team to a more business oriented organizational chart, establishing a point-person to manage the school, teachers, and students.
We quickly learned that effective leadership was essential if we were going to meet our objectives of using technology to provide alternative learning and advanced educational opportunities to students. Understanding that managing a virtual team requires strong leadership from every member of the team and open communications, we have worked hard on building the team using a number of methods. As the Executive Director, I rely on my management team to handle most of the day-to-day operations, which allows me to focus on where the school will be in the future and on solving challenges. The following operating principles have helped me lead our school and have kept us focused on our mission:
Operating principles aside, we have had to overcome a number of challenges. Being a nontraditional school, we've had to build and prove the credibility of the courses offered at The Florida Online High School. We have established a virtual team that has had to adjust the way they are accustomed to teaching and we've had to build necessary student support mechanism, such as guidance counselors. Even while we continue to wrestle with some of the issues, especially as technology changes and our student population grows, we are encouraged by our accomplishments.
Because of our virtual existence, we will always have a heavy reliance on technology. However, this doesn't change how our school leadership embraces, learns, and integrates technology. Our leadership team places special emphasis on making sure all team members have the support and professional development to fully utilize technology as a learning tool for instruction. We have established some guidelines to help guide our daily activities, build our virtual school community, and provide an adequate level of technical support to teachers as well as school leaders and administrators:
As we assess and evaluate our practices, we continue to fine-tune and improve our school's existence in the digital age. One of the best measures of success comes from the students who attend The Florida Online High School. Not only do these students become experienced telecommuters prepared for real-world environments, but they are also leaders in their own educational journey. We are preparing students to work in a technology rich environment, and they are learning life-management skills alongside of the core curriculum.
Since much of the learning happens online in a remote classroom or home, students must take responsibility for their own progress. For example, students learn the technology as they learn the subject by utilizing tools available on the computer, just like the real world, and are leaders among their peers. When students talk about their experience at The Florida Online High School, they generally agree on the following tips:
About The Florida Online High School
The Florida Online High School began offering courses to students throughout Florida in 1997 and is now affiliated with all 67 of the state's school districts, serving over 3,000 students. Students enrolled at the school have over 60 online high school courses from which to choose. The school also provides consultation and support services to institutions around the globe.