BRADENTON -- Science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics education; ways to improve efficiency, transportation; and just how fast Diana Greene ran the hurdle in high school were all topics of discussion at a Manatee Chamber of Commerce event Friday.
The answer to the pressing hurdles time question posed by Bradenton City Councilman Gene Gallo?
"13.8 seconds," Greene said, adding she was a state champion in her junior year.
At the end of her second year on a track scholarship at Santa Fe Community College -- with scouts in the crowd from Troy University -- Greene's track career came to a halt. Three surgeries later, Greene retired from jumping hurdles and turned her attention to hurdles in the education arena.
With the start of the 2015-16 school year just more than a week away, Greene spoke to chamber members about school district initiatives and challenges.
The chamber has a vested interest in the Mana
tee County School District, Greene said.
"The chamber of commerce cannot afford for us to fail," she said.
Greene said she is now focused on education in the classroom. She wants to stop seeing bad headlines in the newspaper about the district, she added.
Student achievement went up the first year Greene was in the district, but after a number of distractions last year, Greene said all those gains may have been wiped out. That's why the focus must now be on students and teachers in the classrooms.
"It is not about Diana Greene. It is not about the five school board members," she said. "It is about are we providing a high-quality education?"
Manatee County cannot succeed if the schools aren't, she said.
Greene's speech was met with a great reception from audience members who asked for ways to get involved and collaborate to better serve students.
Becky Canesse of Just for Girls charter school asked Greene if the district would re-evaluate the system to provide more efficient transportation for more students. Greene said district officials were working on solutions.
Misty Martin Servia, running for Manatee County School Board, asked Greene what is being done to lower district utility costs. Greene praised the savings the Utilities Department made in the last two years.
Edward Viltz, another school board candidate, wanted to hear more about district preschool and summer programs.
"You've certainly been running fast since you've been superintendent," Viltz said.
Meghin Delaney, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. Follow her on Twitter @MeghinDelaney.