How his manner of leading the district changed over the course of his tenure:
"I've always felt like I've pretty much held true to my beliefs and to my style. But people who have worked with me over the years have said that I became less forceful. Which (laughs) I guess that's a good thing because if I had been as forceful in these closing years as I was 20 years ago that would have been a bigger problem than apparently it was..."
Life after the last day:
"It has been enjoyable to have the time and the freedom to be with my family, especially my granddaughter. I miss the action and the energy of running an urban school district. And when you have been going at full throttle, you know, 24/7, that's a huge change. And so, just to sit here with you, with short pants and a flowered shirt and Crocs on, is just 180 degrees different from the board corporate meetings I would have been involved in and the intense kinds of decision-making that would occur as an urban superintendent.
I've often described the urban superintendency, as superintendents are like the drill "bull in the ring." In football, where a coach puts a player in the middle and blows a whistle and then one by one you've got people running in and you have to be able to turn in different directions and take the person on, make a decision and then move on to the next one. You can't just sit on it. Take this problem and make a decision. Because in that job you do a lot of problem solving, a lot of decisions."
What has changed in education:
"The rigors of education that I had when I was in high school, are the same as they are now in terms of physics. [They] really haven't changed. Calculus hasn't changed. Language hasn't changed. Vocabulary hasn't changed. Science has changed. To be a Renaissance man or woman requires reading the good books. Albeit, maybe online."
The classics, if you will, I don't think go away in a refined, renaissance person. We have been really successful in Palm Beach County in getting kids to graduate. Our graduation rate has risen 25 percent over the last 10 years, which is tremendous. We have closed the gap by 10 percent between our diverse groups. But part of the reason is that we put into place a huge career academy system that allows students to rise to their level of interest and talents."
Have you read Outliers? 10,000 hours. When you spend 10,000 hours doing something you get good at it. You get the confidence to be good at it once you get good at it. Kids, they haven't spent 10,000 hours.
On student achievement:
"The single greatest program independent variable that drives student achievement - in this case graduation rate - is student participation in a career academy because they by choice go into something they are interested in. Biotechnology. Medicine. Arts. Culinary. Marine technologies. Engineering. Computers. We have 175 of those programs. The graduation rate of the students enrolled in those programs is astonishingly higher than students that are not enrolled in those programs."
"There's a lot of people who just don't agree. So a lot of what's happening right now is people are saying, 'Well, you know, we don't like the reform,' and they give a whole bunch of reasons, but the bottom line I think a lot of them just don't agree that we should reform."
The difference between that and a politician is someone who simply goes out and tests the wind by licking their finger and seeing which way the wind is blowing and whichever way it's blowing that's the way they go. Whereas politics is politics is the process by which important decisions are made and not all decisions that are made are necessarily with the support of the public. And that's one of the reasons we have a representative form of government."
Typical weekday now:
"I've always read a lot. I have usually at least a dozen, a dozen and a half books be in front of me. And I shared a lot of those books with the organization when I was the superintendent. And usually in the summer time I read most of the books when I would go to the Bahamas. I work out every day. And I have actually found myself increasing my strength level. I guess somewhat because I have more energy now to work out than I did before (laughs). I've always had a very good personal regime. I'm a busy person.
And I'm still on a transition period. To go from being a good husband and father and family person and running a school district and taking care of my own business, to only having two of those, I've just shifted to where my focus right now has been in closing all the various final activities that I have associated with the school district. I mean I've had to get all my technologies and I've had to get all my stuff out there and get all that rearranged but I mean, I'm busy. I'm busy."
"Jim Berg, When Trouble Comes. It really was sent to me by someone who I guess when I was going through these issues saw that. But the last couple books that we had read this year - we'd read The Blue Zone, which is all about how people live to be 100 around the world. And Mona Lisa and Math. I have a big sack of them in there to wade through."
How he handled the stress:
"Well I never felt any stress. I just looked at the job in terms of what had to be done. And I stayed focus. And we were successful. Now, the fact that this current board and I do not agree on our roles, as a board and the superintendent, because my perspective, the superintendent runs the system, not the board. The board is there to set the vision and the what, not the how. And our success speaks for itself. The past board understood that. And I think my only advice to the current board is, if you live in a glass house, don't throw stones."
The most enjoyable job:
In the principalship you are the closest to the educational process and still are in a leadership position. -especially with a high school. When you get those kids in the beginning of the year, they're ninth graders, they think they know everything, they know nothing. And then you see them graduate four years later. And during the time I was superintendent, I spoke at every graduation because I not only wanted the students and the community to hear who I was as superintendent, what I thought and to set an example and to teach them to the last minute that they were with us, but I also felt like it was important to make sure that the commencement exercises, which I considered to be the crown jewel of public education, be as dignified and proper as possible."
On the union:
"So you can't really expect them to change their tune and quite honestly, they're right back at the board right now. Now for 10 years, I did all the heavy lifting on that. So I was the guy that got the brunt of all their concerns and their frustrations. The new board seems to want to take that on. So I guess eventually we'll see how this new direction works out."
On not resting on your laurels:
"Now, there are people sometimes that when they win the national championship they just kind of say, 'Well, I have accomplished it. I will retire.' Having been a state weightlifting champion six times, there was one year where I did kind of back off a little bit and I didn't win that year. As a matter of fact, I bombed out. And it taught me a lesson about you have got to work hard to be at the top and stay at the top."