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Politics

Keep Florida Learning Committee Has Large Responsibility in Reviewing Education Issues

February 26, 2015 - 6:00pm

The state-picked committee charged with reviewing the implementation of new Florida Standards, among other issues like the Florida Standards Assessment, will meet next month, setting the stage for conversation on some of the most pressing issues in Florida education.

The Department of Education sifted through nearly 3,000 applicants to find 10 members to sit on the committee which was created after Gov. Rick Scott called for a review of the standards and other education issues.

As head of the department, Education Commissioner Pam Stewart was a shoe-in for a spot on the committee.

The remainder of the committee members is a mix of concerned parents, a superintendent, a principal, and even two state lawmakers.

According to the department, membership on the Keep Florida Learning Committee will reflect the diverse views and opinions that Floridians have regarding education in Florida today.

Department Communications Director Meghan Collins said members of the public could attend future meetings.

We are committed to transparency throughout this process, so all meetings will be open to the public, she told Sunshine State News. Since the first meeting will be conducted by phone, we will notice the meeting and provide call-in information for those interested in listening.

2015 Teacher of the Year Christie Bassett of Polk County was one person who made the committees final cut.

The biggest responsibility will be to keep an open mind and in every decision ... every recommendation we make ... we need to always have the best interests of the Florida students .. [as our No. 1 priority,] she said.

Bassett also added there would be a large responsibility placed on the shoulders of Floridas education leaders.

I think that its really important that our leadership is listening to all Florida citizens and that theyre welcoming all opinions, she said. I think thats a sign of effective, well-rounded leadership.

Varying opinions will certainly be present at the committee meetings.

Laura Zorc of Indian River County also earned a seat on the committee. Zorc, a vocal opponent of the Common Core State Standards, said she was "totally surprised" by her selection since she had only applied to the committee a few days before applications were closed.

Zorc promised she wasn't going to sit idly by and stay quiet while serving on the committee.

They know me well enough to know I speak softly but carry a big stick, she explained.

Just a few weeks ago, Zorc was asked by the governor's office to testify on standardized assessments from a parental perspective.

Zorc is also well-versed in gathering public support for the anti-Common Core movement. She's organized rallies, created letter campaigns and been one of the most outspoken against the controversial standards in Florida.

"I did not commit to be passive," she told Sunshine State News. "I want to see things done."

This isn't just a walk in the park for Zorc, either. She says she has a vested interest in the goals of the committee and making her voice heard because her youngest child is currently in kindergarten.

"I'm in it for the long haul," she explained. "My goal is to eat this elephant one bite at a time, and without an invitation at the dinner table how can we expect to be part of the change?"

Theres no set date for the committees next meeting, but members will participate in a conference call in late March. In-person meetings will be scheduled at a later date.

Reach Allison Nielsen by email at allison@sunshinestatenews.com or follow her on Twitter: @AllisonNielsen

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