Eric J. Smith made his debut with the full State Board of Education this morning, and he made clear that his primary commitment will be to Florida's school children. Of his entire letter of employment, Smith spoke of just one line, the one that talked about his role in the care and education of the state's youth.
"I take that most seriously," Smith told the board. "Kids in Florida today as they enter classrooms are counting on us to make the right decisions."
He then made a state of the department report that raised several key concerns for the future. Smith noted that revenue estimates for the next two years are headed backward, and that the state of district-level investments is in doubt. He talked about how enrollment dropped by more than 10,000 across Florida, and that the about half of all districts are having trouble meeting the class-size amendment requirements.
Board members welcomed Smith, but didn't give him much of a honeymoon. Akshay Desai pressed Smith and his staff about the financial picture and investments, asking, "What kind of contingency planning do we have or want to have?" The state must make sure that districts can keep running, Desai said.
Smith and his team promised to keep on top of the matter. And with that, they were off and running.