Every Lee County resident, whether they have children in school or not, are stakeholders in the district’s public school system. Our future workforce, economic vitality and sustainability depend on the educational decisions we make today. We can no longer afford to lose quality teachers and support personnel to other school districts and job markets across the country. Imagine what would happen if teachers received the support they need to be successful and want to stay. Imagine classrooms where teaching and learning occurred in tandem with technological advances and new standards. It’s time to truly put us on a path toward creating the best education system possible here in Lee County. Transformational leadership starts at the top and this is why I am running to be your next Lee County School Board Member in District 7.
Community service has always been a major motivation in my life. As a Lee County resident and young professional, I served as the president of the SW Florida Hispanic Chamber in the early 1990s. I surrounded myself with community service-minded individuals, including my mentors, Bill Smith, Sr. and David Barton. I was part of the core group, which surveyed the economic landscape of Southwest Florida and created the rationale for the Horizon Council. Fast forward a few decades, and I am now celebrating my 25th year in the corporate education field as CEO and Chief Learning Officer for my own company, providing the educational services Fortune 500 companies need to achieve workforce development objectives around the world.
When I first moved back to Lee County a few years ago, I volunteered to serve on the School District’s Equity and Advisory Committee. I was able to see first-hand the good things the School District was doing and also observed some of the significant systemic gaps. In the spirit of community service, I offered to meet with a few school administrators last August about modernizing the district’s approach to educational technology and how it can be integrated into the classroom. It quickly became apparent that the understanding of educational technology’s use in the classroom is only one of many organizational aspects in need of streamlining in the district. I found a profound lack of communication between department heads about this area, which has a $150M+ price tag in the district’s last budget. Although I never thought I would run for public office, these experiences ignited a strong desire to serve the community, parents, teachers and students. I know I can help the Lee County School Board achieve district strategic objectives, much in the same way I do with the Fortune 500 companies I serve- using comprehensive strategic planning tools, performance indicators and solutions.
No organization of any type can operate efficiently when its decision makers and staff operate in silos and don’t talk to each other. Communication improvements require a shift in culture throughout an organization. Attracting and retaining great teachers require a culture of support and respect. Fortune 500 companies recognize that transformational solutions need to happen from the top down. If they experienced the type of employee turnover many school districts do, you can bet they would do something to fix it, and fast. Otherwise, they would not survive the unforgiving market.
In Lee County, 27 percent of first-year teachers leave the district. The rate is 49 percent for fifth-year teachers. Organizations primarily attract great talent through recommendations by current employees. When half of those employees are on their way out because their concerns are not being heard, and comprehensive in-person exit interviews are not conducted to uncover systemic problems, how can we expect to see any improvements? The fact that our teacher turnover numbers are not unusual nationwide, is no excuse to perpetuate that trend. Through my work with the Horizon Council’s Workforce Committee, I personally took up the mantle to create a solution and chaired the Young Professional’s Portal. The goal of the YP Portal, which launched in June, is to attract and retain young professionals by making it easier for them to become engaged in our community. This is just one example of my leadership in action. Hopefully, it will have a positive impact on newly recruited teachers, as well as help young professionals in other industries.
A quarter of our students do not graduate from high school. That’s a problem that should be unacceptable to all of us. The rate for student who do not graduate decreases further when we break it down for Hispanics (30 percent) and even more so for African American students (39 percent). It’s a tough path toward adulthood without a High School diploma. It’s a tough path for us as a community if we allow this to happen. It’s time to create an integrated strategy to leverage 21st Century education to develop a significantly improved educational system. We will either catch up soon, or be too far behind and watch as charter schools and districts elsewhere get more innovative in improving student achievement. One of my favorite quotes is, “The end of knowledge must surely be service to one’s community.” To me this means that if you have amassed good experiences, have been blessed with a good education and stellar career, you are compelled to help your community. Last August, I made the compelling decision to serve my community and significantly raise the bar of our Lee County School Board. Please support me in significantly raising the bar. The future of ALL our students is at stake.
Bio for Guido Minaya
Dr. Guido Minaya is the CEO and Chief Learning Officer of Minaya Learning Global Solutions LLC, a corporate education and higher education services firm based in Cape Coral. He is running for the Lee County School Board District 7 At Large seat.