Public schools in Orange County are looking toward the future with the appointment of Monique Felder as the new superintendent.
The Orange County Board of Education sent out a press release earlier this month with the announcement, but Felder doesn't officially take office until Nov. 1.
Felder has a bachelor's degree in elementary education from York College in Jamaica, New York, a master’s degree in elementary education from Johns Hopkins University and a doctorate in educational leadership and policy studies from Virginia Tech.
The release outlined Felder’s previous experience, detailing her 25-year career in public education in Maryland and Tennessee. Most recently, the release stated, Felder served as the Chief Academic Officer for the Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools district in Tennessee.
The board reviewed the applications of and conducted interviews with 30 candidates, ultimately choosing Felder because of her experience and focus on equity.
“The Board was particularly impressed by Dr. Felder’s commitment to making educational equity a reality for all students, teaching students to become positive citizens of the world," the press release said. "The Board is confident that she will lead the school system to even higher achievement in its effort to ensure that all students graduate prepared for college, careers, civic engagement and productive lives.”
Felder said ensuring equity for all students has always been her goal during her time working in public education.
“It is no longer a one size fits all, we have to differentiate what we do, we have to look at students as individuals,” she said. “We have to be OK with understanding that some kids may need more of some things. That’s equity work, which is focused on all kids and ensuring that all children have what they need, whether they need more challenge and more rigor and more enrichment, or whether they need more instruction and more resources, or both.”
Felder is inheriting a district in the midst of scandal. The district has dealt with several issues this school year: In October, a teacher was charged with statutory rape, and following issues with scheduling at Cedar Ridge High School, a new principal was appointed.
The interim superintendent Randy Bridges said the district is continuously looking to improve.
“The core business of any successful educational institution is teaching and learning,” Bridges said. “Situations occasionally happen in our school system that require us to take a closer look at our processes and procedures. We always look for continuous improvement opportunities. We strive to have a safe teaching and learning environment for our students and employees.”
Bridges also explained that while the district is improving, it is steadfast in its beliefs.
“We are constantly looking for better ways to serve our students, but we must not ignore the many opportunities we provide to our students and their families each day,” he said.
Felder also acknowledged the challenges the school system has been facing. Her goal is improvement going forward, she said.
“I know there are wonderful things happening in this district, but I think that there are also challenges, and that those challenges could be and should be seen as opportunities to improve what we do for students,” Felder said. “We are never in a place where we’ve arrived, and its always in the mindset of continuous improvement, how do we continue to improve and perfect and get better at what we do in order to impact student achievement.”