e_wayne_gent_web.jpgSpecial to South Florida Times

RIVIERA BEACH — New Palm Beach County School Superintendent E. Wayne Gent says he is committed to work with all interested people necessary to meet the educational needs of students.

Gent discussed his vision for the school district during a March 15 community educational forum sponsored by the county’s Black Educators Caucus.

“I am committed to meeting the needs of all students,” said Gent, “and am listening to the community because I care about the children and I want the community to care about me, to help me and to trust me.

“I know that means that I have to demonstrate that I care about you and you have to be convinced that I am willing to do everything I can to earn your trust.” 

Emma Banks, principal of Inlet Grove Community School, welcomed the 60 or so participants.

Caucus President Ronald Leonard explained that it was critical that the community have the opportunity to talk directly with Gent.  “Many of us educators, the teachers and administrators, have known Dr. Gent for many years and respect him and his work and we want our parents to be able to meet him in his new position and learn what his vision is directly from him,” he said.

Gent, 57, was promoted to the top spot last month after the school board abandoned its national search.  He replaced Bill Malone, a previous fill-in after Art Johnson, the former superintendent of 10 years, was fired a year ago.

It was a reversal of position for the board, which, in making Gent the interim superintendent in November, had said he would not be considered for the permanent position.

Gent has worked for the school district since 1999, including as a former north area superintendent and Dwyer High School principal. He previously served as a St. Lucie County teacher, principal and superintendent finalist in 2003 and an unsuccessful superintendent candidate in Martin County in 2008 and Indian River County last year.

“I want to go out and really make myself accessible to meet with folks, to hear what their perspective is on the district, what are the things we're doing well and what are some of the things we can work on to improve,” Gent said.

Rose Anne Brown, longtime City of Riviera Beach spokeswoman and moderator for the two-hour forum, introduced Gent. As a member of the city’s Education Committee, she said, she knows him and shares his philosophy that “the school board can’t do it all alone, that there must be a partnership between the students and the schools, the community, parents, the church and government.”   

Gent fielded questions from the audience on issues such as school safety, bullying, attendance boundaries, shortage of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) magnet school slots, alternative schools, charter schools, dropout prevention, alternative school access and programming, adult and community education, and professional development for teachers.

Camille Coleman, north area superintendent, assisted him in fielding questions.

Gent said he wants to expand STEM-type programming to regional academies to meet the demand. He also sees the need for evening programming within the community to provide lab time for students without computer access at home and for adults looking to enhance and/or complete their education through evening courses.

Coleman said several proposals would be submitted soon to encourage the evening use of schools.

Photo: E Wayne Gent