Read our exclusive Q&A with Orange County School Board Chair candidate Matthew Fitzpatrick.
What is the single biggest challenge facing OCPS?
The greatest challenge facing OCPS is (to ensure) all of our students feel loved and feel safe. I believe students need hope, they need a positive attitude, they need to know that people care, and they need to know they can become whatever they desire to be as long as they are willing to work. We need great teachers ... to accomplish these goals. This need is a major concern of mine because we are facing teacher shortages in many of the high-needs areas of math, science, special education and elementary education.
What is the best way for the district to address school safety?
We need to continue to secure the perimeter of our schools. We also need to move toward single points of entry. We need to make sure there are SROs at all schools, and we need to explore putting Class D security guards at the entrances of all schools. We also need to free up our teachers to be able to truly connect with and care about our students. Teachers are the counselors kids see every day. A teacher showing they care can save a hopeless child’s life. Our evaluation system must become teacher-friendly to foster this classroom environment.
How should OCPS handle the issue of school overcrowding?
We need to work more closely with the county and local developers to address areas of high growth. We should not have a middle school opening with 90 portables. We need to invest in the trades to supply construction workers to help build the schools in a timelier manner.
How would you improve communication between the School Board and Orange County?
It is very important for the Mayor of Orange County and the county commissioners to have a good relationship with the Orange County School Board and superintendent. We are all on the same team, serving the same voters. I think both leaders should regularly attend one another’s meetings and occasionally meet for lunch to build a strong relationship that can lead to a strong community.
Why are you running for Orange County School Board chair?
I gave up on politicians solving the problems in education. Helping young people is my passion. I view education as one of the best ways to help people and to disrupt poverty. I have been in education for 25 years — 12 as a teacher and 13 as an administrator. I’ve watched the steady degrading of education over the past several years, and I decided to do something about it. If I win this position, it means a 50% pay cut. My life motto is, “Pursue your passion, not your pension.”
What do you want to accomplish as School Board chair?
I want students to be appropriately scheduled rather than just forcing students into AP classes. I want consistent discipline policies with meaningful consequences, rather than fixing discipline data without actually improving student behavior. I want to see all schools fostering a love of reading. I want to invest in career technical education options at local middle schools and high schools. I want to create the very best working environment for our teachers, so they can express their passion and content area expertise.