Alachua County School Board Chairman Rob Hyatt summarizes new superintendent Karen Clarke as a problem-solver.
Clarke is a graduate of the Alachua County public school system and the University of Florida. For the past 25 years, Clarke has solved problems as a teacher and administrator in the school district.
This experience led the board to select Clarke, who had been the deputy superintendent, to head the school district, Hyatt said.
“As deputy superintendent, she has been directly involved and hands-on in multiple areas of management – curriculum, finance, operations, human relations,” Hyatt said. “She has the trust of teachers and principals and leads from a position of experience.”
Clarke began as a dropout prevention teacher for junior high and high school students in Newberry. She moved to Oak View Middle School, where she advanced from teaching social studies to serving as dean, then assistant principal and, finally, principal.
In 2010, Clarke took on several district-wide administrative roles. In those roles, she helped increase graduation rates, including those of minority and disadvantaged student groups. She also led efforts to address the gap between high-achieving and low-achieving students.
“We’ve got to have strong, collaborative relationships with community partners to close that gap,” she said.
An example of the programs that are making an impact is Winning Reading Boost, developed by UF’s Lastinger Center. Teachers and volunteers use music and other fun activities to provide intensive one-on-one literacy instruction for students who struggle with reading.
Clarke is also overseeing the placement of more instructional coaches, graduation coaches and other resources in high-needs schools and the creation of two new career-tech programs that will begin at Eastside High School this fall – one in digital media and one in health professions.
Clarke noted that her recent district roles involved carrying out many administrative duties, including the implementation of programs established by previous superintendents. As the new superintendent, she will now lead the district in setting its vision and developing new initiatives.
“I’m eager to spend more time on outreach, being involved with the community, getting into the schools more often and interacting with our community leaders in solving the issues that we face,” she said.
She is pleased to lead the school district in which she grew up. “I appreciate the folks who mentored me and looked out for me, and I want to provide the kind of opportunities I had for the next generation of students in Alachua County,” she said.