BRADENTON -- The Manatee County School District is coming out of a storm and is prepared to provide stability and calm as it moves forward, according to a presentation Superintendent Diana Greene gave during a Bradenton Kiwanis luncheon Tuesday.
The district's mission goes beyond teaching children state-mandated "content" but also to help shape them into productive young men and women.
"Our tagline is aiming higher," Greene said. "I believe even in the midst of storm, if you keep the compass, when it calms down you'll know the right direction. I believe we are in the midst of getting to that calmness."
The stability will come in the form of another balanced budget for the district, Greene said. The calmness and healing will come when the district returns to what it does best, teaching children, Greene said.
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During her speech, Greene shared personal details. Her
father, who died 10 years ago, taught auto mechanics as a vocational education teacher after serving 25 years in the U.S. Air Force. Greene recalled a story from her father's funeral, where a former student, who didn't end up working in the auto industry, talked about how he looked to Greene's father not only as a teacher, but as a role model.
"It taught me that my father truly not only taught this young man about the content that he was hired to do, but he taught him how to be a man," she said. "I have carried that with me for the past 10 years in everything that I do."
The Manatee County School District must do that for its students, too, Greene said.
"Our school district is the beacon. For many students we are their only entity that gives them an opportunity to be successful."
The Bradenton Kiwanis club luncheon was part celebration of a successful Christmas in August event, where more than 500 homeless children were provided with new backpacks, school supplies and health exams, and their parents were presented with options for career training and job applications at McKechnie Field.
When Kiwanis President Ed Nicholas showed up at 5:45 a.m.for the event, 25 families were already waiting in line. The gates opened at 7 a.m.
"It was pitch black and they were already lined up," he said. "The people that we served seemed enormously grateful to me. It was an amazing event."
This year's event was organized by Kiwanis club member and Manatee County School Board member Karen Carpenter, who jokingly admitted to being very tired after the event had ended.
"This is a real community effort," she said. "It was a great experience."
At the end of her speech, Greene said she believes a small group of dedicated people can help make a difference and extended a challenge to those in attendance to get involved to help the school district succeed.
With a more than a $600 million annual budget, 6,000 employees and nearly 48,000 students, the school district is the largest organization in the community.
"We cannot allow the organization to fail," she said. "We have to bring it back in alignment and back to a level of stability."
Meghin Delaney, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. Follow her on Twitter @MeghinDelaney.