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Dr. Frank Rodriguez – Moving the Goal Post Forward!

by | Mar 26, 2024

“My grandfather always instilled in me from a very young age that education is the one thing nobody can ever take away from you, it’s the key to your future,” said Dr. Frank Rodriguez, Superintendent of the Beaufort County Schools.

Before being named Beaufort superintendent in 2019, Dr. Rodriguez spent 26 years serving the South Florida education community in a variety of capacities: as a secondary Social Studies teacher; as a program coordinator for the Florida Department of Education; and in the Palm Beach County schools where he served where he served in numerous capacities.

His family was originally from Cuba, and education was highly stressed. Many members of his family are educators, including his father who taught business and finance at the college level. Dr. Rodriguez knew early on that he wanted to go into education, eventually beginning his career as a social studies teacher. 

“I think one of the most important lessons that I’ve learned over the years is that as you work in the field of education, it’s all about making sure the students you serve are in a learning environment where they can get a great high-quality education,” he said.

From the beginning as Beaufort County Superintendent, Dr. Rodriguez has been deeply involved with what goes on in the classroom. He says that the decisions made at the district office ultimately impact teachers and students. He visits schools regularly and at the high school level has created student advisory sessions to get feedback directly from the students on their experiences and the challenges they are facing. Most school districts don’t do this, but he even included students in the district budget process, asking them to share with him the critical issues and needs from their perspective. Two years ago, as a direct result of the student input, teacher compensation was identified as a major issue. Because of the student’s involvement during the district’s budget process, it was decided to move teacher pay from 53rd in the state to number one.

Through Dr. Rodriguez’s five-year tenure, he has also continued to be open and transparent with parents and the greater community. As a result of his numerous town halls and public forums, the 2023 $439 million school bond referendum aimed at improving school safety, rebuilding, or replacing inadequate facilities, population growth, and adding Career & Technical Education space to address academic needs, passed with a 72% approval by the voters. 

“This was the largest bond referendum in our district’s history, and its approval represented a strong show of support for our 21,500 students and their futures,” said Dr. Rodriguez last November after its passage. 

A citizen-led oversight that was established to oversee the execution of the 2019 referendum will continue under this referendum to monitor how the system executes on the various projects. 

“The learning environment is far different than it was years ago – particularly the technology that is needed today. We want to make sure that we have the infrastructure and the buildings that are needed to support and prepare our students for the careers of tomorrow,” said Dr. Rodriguez.

To that effort, college and career readiness is a major focus of the district with 30 state approved programs. Last year, 1,500 students went through the Career and Technical Education program with a completion rate of 98.9% (Source: Beaufort County School District). These state-approved courses lead to career concentrations, work-based learning opportunities, and/or industry certifications. Whether a student is planning on attending a four-year university, a technical college or being prepared to enter the workforce, the CTE programs provide a pathway to success. Dr. Rodriguez and the district also work in collaboration with many industry and education partners such as the Technical College of the Lowcountry and University of South Carolina Beaufort to provide Beaufort Country students with internships, work-based learning with real world experiences, and early college credit dual enrollment opportunities.

Dr. Rodriguez is especially proud of the cybersecurity program in partnership with Beaufort County with hopes to make the area a cybersecurity hub. In addition, the robotics and the STEM initiatives build on the importance of teamwork, he says. The business program, DECA, prepares students to be future entrepreneurs. The fire academy at Bluffton High School, the biomedical and EMT programs, and the skilled trades such as welding and electronics programs all prepare students for the future workforce.

As a member of the Beaufort County Economic Development Corporation board, the superintendent is surrounded by business leaders and elected officials who care about moving the county forward. 

“I want to be highly in tune with the current workforce needs and the upcoming demands in our area. As we project our programming for the future, it’s important for us to know where the workforce is headed, specifically where the needs of businesses and industries are headed so that we can establish initiatives that are designed to prepare students for what I call 21st century skill sets,” he says. 

As Dr. Rodriguez continues to lead the district, he says he is emphatic about the importance of open communication and feedback. “I tend to be very methodical as I approach various issues. I think about things from various perspectives, and I ask our staff to analyze different situations that way as well,” he said. He is also a big believer in continuous improvement. “I’m comfortable in a world where you’re never there, because just when you think you’re there, there’s more possibilities. It doesn’t bother me to set a high goal even if it’s slightly out of reach, because I think in the end, we’re further down the road for our efforts and for striving to get there and once we get close, we move again. We keep moving the goal post forward!”