published: Sunday, June 24, 2012
Cox seeking fourth bid as superintendent
By CHRISTOPHER TUFFLEY
SEBRING -- Incumbent school superintendent Wally Cox is running for re-election. He has served three terms.
Cox has deep roots in Highlands County. His great-grandfather was the first clerk of the court. His grandmother, mother and children all graduated from Sebring High School, as did he.
After graduating from Florida State University, Cox returned to Sebring taking a job with the school district in 1976, working in the finance, budgeting and accounting departments. "Thirty-six years later I'm still with the school district," he said, "that's important to me."
He grinned. "I've attended almost every school board meeting since 1976."
In early 2000, when then superintendent Bill Farmer decided to retire, Cox chose to run for the position.
"I worked with five superintendents," he said, "and looking at it from the day-to-day felt that most of their time was spent on the budget process."
He added that he was encouraged by friends and co-workers to run.
"I prayed over the decision," he said. "I'm not going to say (my wife Tricia Cox) was delighted.
"I will tell you I love it. It's not an ego thing. We have wonderful teachers and staff, it's a joy to go to work."
"The last few years have been challenging. We've lost $18 million (in funding) over the last five years. We've not cut direct services to students, but it has impacted teachers who are doing more with less. I'm astounded at how well they do. They do mission work, that's what they do. I can't thank them enough.
"We have positioned ourselves well for 2012-2013," he said, adding the budget will balance. "There will be very few changes."
Cox said while he "did not want to cut salaries or jobs," he has had to cut 225 positions. He did most of that through attrition. "Last year it impacted my wife (a media specialist) when we had to cut media specialists from 17 to six."
What Cox takes the greatest pride in, however, is "how students are doing better over the last 12 years."
He ticked off the district's improvements: advanced academics, the Career Academy, the International Baccalaureate program, keeping abreast with new technology in the classroom, and adding remedial resources.
Many of the improvements, like the IB program and advanced academics, couldn't have happened without community support and leadership, he said. "I'm more an enabler, my staff does the work. I believe we've done some remarkable things."
Among new challenges, Cox said, is the state's revision of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test and it's scoring; the state's mandate for teacher and principal evaluations; and the cost of phasing in e-books and upgrading computers -- not just for students, but in the business office as well. Funding will continue to be a problem.
"I think it would be difficult for a new person to step into this," he said. "I know what's been cut. I know what first to put back. I'd like to see us through this cycle over the next few years, then leave it with somebody who can take it to the next level."
Truth (by: Dorothy - 7/19/2012)
Wally said himself :" his staff does the work" - that's right : Rebecca Fleck for Superintendent - might as well put the person in the position that truly provides leadership, drive and support to the students and teachers of Highlands County. Take a very close look at the candidates- I'd never vote for someone who's never taught a lesson - that will be making decisions for my child. Becky Fleck will get my vote and anyone who wants their tax dollars spent on teaching the students should vote for her too!!
Really? (by: Rich - 7/19/2012)
MrNotReligious, your other choices are a an atheist art teacher claiming conservative christianity in her ads, a guy driving school buses around town that has declared personal bankruptcy on more than one occasion, and a woman who micromanages to the point that staff are scared of her.
Hidden money (by: MrNotReligious - 6/25/2012)
Wally is seeking a fourth term because he doesn't want anyone to find out where he's misspent county funds. His budgeting skills are seriously lacking as evidenced by his magical budgets of the past few years. How does an accountant always underbudget in some areas while using funds specified for one purpose to fill the underbudgeted areas? There's money hidden, and now Wally just needs four more years to hid it better.
Cox (by: Rich Roberts - 6/24/2012)
He has proven to be a great leader for our school system. He has made tough discisions and always keep the children as the primary focus of discisions. Anyone who thinks they could do better is sadly mistaken. Wally has my full support as you can tell. Go Wally!
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