Orange County’s superintendent to retire next school year

Barbara Jenkins will retire in December

ORLANDO, Fla. – After 10 years of managing Orange County’s public school district, Dr. Barbara Jenkins is planning to retire.

OCPS announced Tuesday evening that Jenkins, who became superintendent in 2012, will retire later this year.

The announcement said Jenkins will open the 2022-2023 school year, then officially retire in December.

The board discussed a timeline for finding Jenkins’ replacement Tuesday, beginning with a work session on the search scheduled for Feb. 15.

Jenkins’ profile on the OCPS website says she’s been serving the district for 30 years. She was a former deputy superintendent, as well as chief of staff, handling human resources and labor relations, among other duties.

Orange County Public Schools is one of the largest school districts in the country.

Jenkins was previously recognized as Florida’s Superintendent of the Year and one of four finalists for the national title. The Florida Association for Career and Technical Education named her CTE Superintendent of the Year. In 2016, the Florida Music Education Association named her Superintendent of the Year.

“Through the years, it has been my honor to work with phenomenal board members, teachers, administrators and support staff who are committed to leading our students to success. Serving in this role has been a calling and a tremendous blessing,” Jenkins said.

Jenkins said this is bittersweet.

“I love this district, certainly have enjoyed being superintendent here for the last 10 years, and will continue to live in this community and wish them well,” she said.

The superintendent considers it an honor to lead OCPS students, even though the past couple of years have been the most challenging of her tenure.

Navigating the pandemic forced Dr. Jenkins and other school staff to become experts in areas they were not privy to.

“Dealing with contact tracing and vaccines and face masks and everything that had to do with the medical side of the pandemic is not what educators signed up for but we had to take that on as well,” she said.

She said it was tough transitioning students from the classrooms when the cases of COVID-19 skyrocketed in Florida.

“I think the biggest challenge was when all of our children had to pivot to at-home instruction. I think the second challenge was trying to get them all to come back,” she said.

Jenkins said the district is still facing issues. Now, the district is working to help students recover academically and find ways to tend to their social-emotional needs.

In addition, the district is struggling to retain school staff. She mentioned the bus driver vacancies that need to be filled.

“I think we have to be concerned about our workforce because we have needs and we have certainly a workforce that may be struggling to come back to work,” Jenkins said.

Regardless of the obstacles the district faces, Jenkins said she is proud of its progress. She touted a near 90% graduation rate.

“That’s sort of a tell-tell sign that our school is doing a better and better job around servicing our students. Leading students to success,” she said.

Before Jenkins leaves the district she said one of her goals is to finalize a scholarship fund for students interested in pursuing a career in education.

She hasn’t made plans for after retirement, but said she will be committed to coaching future superintendents.

About the Author:

Christie joined the ClickOrlando team in November 2021.