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Broad Alumni Spotlight: Dr. Barbara Jenkins (TBA 2006)

Dr. Barbara Jenkins serves as superintendent of Orange County Public Schools in central Florida. 

Dr. Barbara Jenkins

What is your current organization and role?

I serve as superintendent of Orange County Public Schools, which serves 206,000 students in central Florida.

What is something you’re currently working on in your professional role?

Like most districts, we are working on accelerating student learning to replenish lost instructional time during the pandemic. While we show some gains, there remains much work to be done, particularly for our students of color and those from families with lower socio-economic status.

How has your experience as a Broad alum influenced the way you approach your work?

When I graduated from The Broad Superintendent’s Academy in 2006, I was well prepared to analyze data, drive decisions based on that data, and insist on a recognition of underserved populations. The program prepared us to lead with vision, deal with political landscapes, secure community support, and manage media interaction. It is due to such training that we were able to win the Broad Prize for Urban Education in 2014.  I approach the work with a sense of resilience and optimism about what can be accomplished on behalf of our brilliant young people.

What is one place where Orange County Public Schools has been working to increase equity for the students and communities you serve?

Our Minority Achievement Office has diligently leveraged programs to increase student exposure to and success in advanced courses. We have been recognized more than once by College Board for increased access to advanced placement courses for underserved populations.

What do you think school system leaders should be thinking more about right now, as the United States works to stabilize and recover from COVID-19?

We cannot afford to lose focus on narrowing achievement and opportunity gaps. Across the country, gaps have been exacerbated by the pandemic and require aggressive efforts. I think we also need to take advantage of the digital and individualized learning made possible by the shift in educational services during the pandemic. We must take advantage of that shift rather than attempting to return to “normal.” We tend to overrate “normal” because all students were not well served prior to the pandemic. We have a unique opportunity to reinvent the way we run our schools and how we serve the individual needs of our students.

What is a thought-provoking education-related book or article you’ve read recently?

Required: God’s Call to Justice, Mercy, and Humility to Overcome Racial Division by Claude Alexander and Mac Pier