Incoming OCPS superintendent shares priorities, challenges for district

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — With the start of a new academic year, one local school district is ready to welcome a new superintendent.

Dr. Maria Vazquez will officially take the reins at Orange County Public Schools on Sept. 1.

Channel 9 had a chance to sit down and talk one-on-one with her about some of the current challenges the district is facing.

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Vazquez, the first Hispanic superintendent at OCPS, has been with the district for more than two decades.

She began her career with OCPS as a classroom teacher and most recently served as deputy superintendent.

Vazquez outlined her priorities. What’s at the top of the list?

“Our first priority is making sure that our students and our staff are safe in our schools.”

She added, “We have SROs in every one of our schools. We have also worked to harden our facilities.”

Another focal point will be to fill open teaching positions.

Vazquez said the district currently has about a 3% vacancy rate.

She said OCPS is working to bring more substitute teachers on board and has hired intervention teachers to step into classrooms.

“The ‘Great Resignation’ has hit all industries and teaching has not been exempt.”

Vazquez said she believes it starts with changing the culture around how the district treats teachers.

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“It’s going to take myself as a superintendent, my leadership team, our principals — each and every one of us working to ensure they know how valuable they are to our organization and the impact they have on the lives of our children.”

Vazquez added she recognizes that there are other challenges, including learning loss and getting kids back up to speed.

But she said she’s ready to hit the ground running to move the school district forward.