The sharp-dressed Portuguese immigrant took a momentary break from his tour, whipped out his iPhone, and snapped a picture of an Ergotron Learnfit desk inside a classroom at Belle Terre Elementary.
Albert Carvalho — the nation’s top superintendent — visited Flagler County Monday afternoon to share the innovations that helped him to transform the Miami-Dade public school system from a state of disarray to the nation’s top urban district in just five years.
Along the way, he ran into a few ideas (like the desks found only at Belle Terre and one Australian school), he’ll take back south on his flight.
Flagler Schools Superintendent Jacob Oliva led Carvalho on a tour that showcased everything from "paperless classrooms" (in which each student is equipped with a tablet) to a “sandbox” media lab. In paperless classrooms, students like fifth-grader Sean Sparring can use either Google Drive or the “Showme” app to download and work on assignments with a stylus pen.
“You can study a lot better on it, because you can have your work from day one, and it’s a lot more fun,” Sparring said.
After seeing what Belle Terre has to offer, Carvalho spoke to a group of Flagler County principals about the challenges facing school districts, key factors to establishing successful systems, and the direction in which he believes Florida school districts should be heading.
“Opportunity gaps lead to achievement gaps, and achievement gaps lead to economic gaps,” Carvalho said, explaining the far-reaching consequences of a lack of education.
He broached the topic of technology, urging educators not to limit their efforts to the established skills students have been expected to gain in the past.
“How many of you, five years ago, could even conceptualize a 3D printer?” he asked the principals. “I still struggle with that.”
Historically, Carvalho explained, there’s been an implied rivalry between northern and southern Florida — between large districts like Miami-Dade and smaller ones like Flagler that are represented by the North East Florida Education Consortium. Both Oliva — a Miami high school graduate in his own right — and Carvalho —reject that notion.
“At the end of the day, when the door closes and you’re in a room with 20 kids, all the differences go away,” Carvalho said. “They’re all just kids.”