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West Orange Times & Observer Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019 7 months ago

Dayna Gaut running for Orange County School Board District 4

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The Horizon West resident wants to take the pressure off students within Orange County Public Schools.
by: Tim Freed Managing Editor

A Horizon West resident in Mabel Bridge hopes to be the next Orange County School Board member for District 4.

Dayna Gaut has officially thrown her hat in the ring and hopes to be elected by Orange County voters next year in the primary election.

The candidate has 10 years of experience teaching in OCPS between Citrus and West Oaks elementary schools. She spent the majority of her time at Citrus, where she taught English classes to students from other countries.

Before that, Gaut served as a paramedic for 15 years, including public affairs management work for Rural/Metro Ambulance and a brief stint as a firefighter for the city of Maitland.

She earned her master’s degree in education from Florida Southern College and is currently working on her dissertation for her doctorate in education leadership.

Gaut said she’s running for the school board seat because she isn’t pleased with the direction OCPS is going.

“I know education; I’ve learned education — I don’t know everything and I’m still learning a lot, but I just think there’s a time when we need to stand up and do what’s right,” Gaut said. “People have been asking me over the years and I didn’t. Finally, I said, ‘I will stand up and serve.’”

Changing the school district’s hyper focus on testing and meeting standards is among Gaut’s top priorities if she’s elected.

“I think public education is really at a turning point right now,” she said. “We’re over-testing and I think we’ve gone from no accountability at the schools over the decades to now the pendulum has swung too far to where it’s just hyper accountability. It’s all about the tests and we’re testing the kids too much. We’re making them anxious about testing and it’s not good for children and it’s not good for teachers.”

Gaut said she thinks tests are important and standards are important, but it’s time to calm things down because every child learns at a different pace, she said.

“It’s like popcorn — when you cook popcorn, you use the same pot, put the same oil in and use the same heat, but the popcorn kernels don’t always pop at the same time,” Gaut said. “You can’t get mad at one kernel or punish the person who is cooking the popcorn because that kernel didn’t pop in the first two minutes, it took four minutes.”

School overcrowding is another issue Gaut hopes to address. Orange County Public Schools does a fine job building new schools, but the process needs to be expedited further, she said.

“Where’s the holdup?” she said. “I look at it in a medical way. Here are your signs and symptoms. What could that be? Let’s rule out these things. It’s the same with education. 

“Let’s find the part that’s broken and we can fix it,” she said. “… We’re dealing with children’s lives. It needs that level of passion and study and commitment and to do the right thing.”

Gaut mentioned that OCPS staff also needs to be held more accountable when it comes to research and findings they present to the school board.

“The school board adopts staff proposals all the time,” she said. “I know the school board is a part-time position — I would give it my whole heart, because it’s big enough that it needs to have someone where you do your own homework instead of just be a rubber stamp for staff.”

Gaut said her passion, experience in teaching, background as a first responder and history of public participation and community leadership all make her the best candidate to serve as the District 4 member for the Orange County School Board.

“I think I’m the best because all of these little parts of my life have brought me here and I think this is the logical next step — to get back into service,” Gaut said.

Tim Freed was the managing editor for the West Orange Times & Observer and the Southwest Orange Observer. He previously spent six years covering the Winter Park/Maitland area and is a graduate of the University of Central Florida.

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