Manatee schools principal reflects on first year on the job
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Manatee schools principal reflects on first year on the job

Manatee County Schools Superintendent Jason Wysong, who completed his first year on the job, said he is most proud of his time at each school.

“We spend a lot of time in meetings here in this office, but the action is in the schools,” Wysong told the Bradenton Herald. “My goal was to spend as much time as possible not in this building but out in the trenches with our teachers and principals.”

Wysong is known as an approachable superintendent, School Board administrators say. As he earns high marks in his first year on the job, Wysong aims to help students get back on track after the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the education system.

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At its June 25 meeting, the Manatee County School Board approved his performance evaluation, which represents the average grade of each member. Wysong received an overall grade of 4.2 out of 5 on his evaluation, according to school district documents.

“It’s been a really great first year,” said school board member Gina Messenger. “I really want to thank you for your thoughtful leadership and strong commitment to student achievement. I truly believe you are an asset to our school district and our community.”

School board member Mary Foreman, who praised Wysong for earning the respect and trust of teachers and staff, suggested the board consider extending his contract at a future meeting.

“He has two years left and I think we need to hire him while we can,” Foreman said.

Wysong added that his assessment was a reflection directors and heads of district departments and the work they perform.

As he plans to begin his second year on the job, Wysong says his priorities include safety, early childhood education and high school completion, and school construction and development.

“All the research tells us that if you’re reading at a grade level at the end of third grade, you’re much more likely to graduate high school nine years later,” Wysong said. “We know that’s really important. We’re working to make sure that we really have a plan for every student, especially those who are falling behind on their credits or test scores. What their plan is for graduating so that they can move forward with their lives, whether that’s college, a career or enlisting in the military.”

As the school district has exhausted federal funding to combat the pandemic, students continue to struggle with absenteeism and academic issues, Wysong said.

“In Manatee County, across the state and across the country, we continue to see higher rates of students who are chronically absent, meaning they miss more than 10 percent of the school year,” Wysong said. “That continues to be a problem, and that work is very important on a student-by-student basis to determine why a student is missing school and what we can do to support them and help them return.”

Wysong is grateful to residents who supported the property tax increase, increase teachers’ salaries.

“As a superintendent and a parent, I want our teachers to be able to live in our community and be close to our students and families,” Wysong said. “So many of our staff have told me that’s something that’s important to them.”

Victoria Villanueva-Marquez is a current and general news reporter for the Bradenton Herald. She also has experience writing about education and human services.