OCPS leaders host 2024 State of the Schools

Superintendent Maria Vasquez and School Board Chair Teresa Jacobs touched on the district’s performance and impact on Orange County.

Orange County Public Schools School Board Chair Teresa Jacobs, left, and Superintendent Maria Vasquez led the State of the Schools address
Orange County Public Schools School Board Chair Teresa Jacobs, left, and Superintendent Maria Vasquez led the State of the Schools address
Photo courtesy of Orange County Public Schools
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Orange County Public Schools Superintendent Maria Vasquez and School Board Chair Teresa Jacobs partnered to host the 2024 State of the Schools address Monday, June 3, at Edgewater High School.

The leaders discussed the district’s progress of ongoing programs, as well as strategy, goals, budget, continuation of the half-cent sales tax and new initiatives while touching on the district’s performance and impact on Orange County. 


Since taking on the superintendent role, Vasquez said communication has been a priority. 

She has held more than 60 town hall meetings throughout the district.

One of the most common themes she heard was the need for more support for schools from the district level.

In response to that plea, OCPS reorganized and moved away from its geographic learning committees where area superintendents supervised as many as 35 schools. Now, principal leaders work more directly with about 12 schools each. Vasquez said feedback shows this has been extremely beneficial in providing more support and professional development for principals.

Vasquez said it also was important to be able to connect directly with families, students and staff on a regular basis, which promoted the creation of “Mondays with Maria.” 

The superintendent has hosted 38 of the video segments.

One of the many topics Vasquez touched upon in the videos was student discipline, an issue she said parents consistently highlighted during the town halls.

In response to these concerns, the district formed a Discipline Task Force, with minds from inside and outside the district.

As part of that effort, a new cell phone policy was developed, which states students must keep their cell phones turned off and put away during class hours. 

Jacobs said increasing reports of anxiety, depression and loneliness amongst youth can be traced back, in part, to cell phones.


Vasquez said the number of “A” rated traditional schools in the district continues to rise, with 77 earning the title from the Florida Department of Education in December compared to 60 the previous year.

In addition, 99.5% of the district’s traditional schools earned an “A,” “B” or “C” grade.

OCPS has increased its graduation rate from fewer than 50% in 2000 to 95.5% in traditional schools in the 2022-23 school year. Charter and alternative schools had an 89.1% graduation rate.

The district had 122 Super Scholars and 54 career and technical education scholars this year.

OCPS is continuing to expand, with the district’s technical colleges currently undergoing a once-in-a-generation reimagining. 

Both the east and west Orange Technical College campuses are under construction and soon will offer state-of-the-art skills labs with the latest technology and more student gathering areas. Renovations on the main campus also were just completed.

Districtwide, 164 graduating seniors earned an OCPS diploma along with an associates degree from Valencia College. Secondary students earned more than 9,500 industry certificates. 

In the arts, OCPS was recognized as one of the best communities for music education in the United States from the National Association of Music Merchants Foundation for the eighth consecutive year. 


The district signed a School Justice Partnership Agreement with 12 local law enforcement agencies and the judicial system following the event.

The agreement lays out guidelines for how to handle instances of student misconduct, with an emphasis on finding alternatives to arrest for less-serious offenses that do not pose a threat to school safety. 


On Nov. 5, Orange County voters again will decide whether to continue the half-cent sales tax for district capital needs for an additional 10 years. The current half-cent sales tax is set to expire at the end of 2025. 

The half-cent sales tax first passed with 59.3% approval in 2002. The sales tax was then again continued by voters in 2014, where it passed with 64% in favor. 

According to OCPS, at least 136 schools have been or will be rebuilt or renovated by the end of the current referendum. Revenues from the half-cent sales tax have funded the OCPS Capital Renewal Program since 2014 to replace major systems, such as air conditioning and roofing. 

Since the implementation of the sales tax, portable usage has dropped by about 75% and the average age of K-12 schools has decreased from 32 to 13 years. 


The OCPS leaders said transparency and honesty are important and it is essential to discuss challenges the district is facing. 

“I believe that public education as a whole is at a tipping point in this country,” Jacobs said. “The impact of our work can’t be overstated, as we instill critical thinking skills that make our students not only employable but productive members of society and informed voters.”

She said teachers are the backbone of the district’s core mission to educate young people.

Of OCPS’ almost 25,000 employees, more than 14,000 are teachers.

However, the number of young people entering the workforce in this profession has declined dramatically. 

Jacobs said OCPS is working on ways to recruit teachers, such as the Center for Future Educators magnet at Edgewater High, the Para to Teacher Pipeline Program, apprenticeship programs and alternative certification options. 

Staffing challenges aren’t just limited to teachers. OCPS continues to suffer from the shortage of bus drivers.

“This year, OCPS was about 100 drivers short, which meant some of them were making two trips to schools, and students experienced inconsistent or delayed routes,” Vasquez said. 

Starting this upcoming school year, parents can start registering their intent for their children to ride the bus, which will help OCPS to start creating routes much earlier than before. 

The district’s fleet of electric buses also are being expanded thanks to grant dollars, and tablets will be placed on buses that will allow the location of children in real time and help track the location and arrival time of the school buses.



Annabelle Sikes

News Editor Annabelle Sikes was born in Boca Raton and moved to Orlando in 2018 to attend the University of Central Florida. She graduated from UCF in May 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in sociology. Her past journalism experiences include serving as a web producer at the Orlando Sentinel, a reporter at The Community Paper, managing editor for NSM Today, digital manager at Centric Magazine and as an intern for the Orlando Weekly.

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