By Dawn Krebs
ST. LUCIE COUNTY -- At a recent school board meeting, St. Lucie County School Superintendent Michael Lannon announced he would step down from his position in June.
He took a moment to reflect on his decade's time with the county.
"I first began with the district in June of 2003," he said. "While I was already employed as a superintendent in Monroe County, I was told there was an opening in St. Lucie County, and they were looking for someone with experience."
After some research on St. Lucie County, Mr. Lannon knew this was a place where he could make a difference.
"I saw the opportunity to teach the community that it could be so much more than what it was," he said. "It looked like a place that really wanted to make improvements."
But he didn't start his career as a superintendent. Mr. Lannon started as a teacher in the 1970s, teaching in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles.
"Part of looking at the daily poverty there committed me to bring about change," he said. "Great teaching is really, really hard work and it's underappreciated."
After he became superintendent, he set about making changes to how things were done.
"Everything is different now," he said. "The processes, the schools and the training have all changed over 10 years."
Some of his proudest accomplishments include a partnership with the parent academy, the district's emphasis on increased learning in science and technology and the recent five-year agreement between the district and the publishing company Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, that has helped to enhance early learning education and expanded access to information technology for all students.
"It doesn't matter what St. Lucie is now, it's what St. Lucie will be," Mr. Lannon said. "And it's been my responsibility to spur it along. We're all here for everyone to be better."
He pointed out that other school districts are now traveling to St. Lucie County to learn about the district's infrastructure.
"We've been getting better this whole time," he said. "We now have the highest graduation rates we've ever had, we have our own virtual school and our grades have increased. We were able to build the capacity to do better."
Now, he is stepping down to spend more time with family and do a little traveling. But he is still looking forward.
"Now is the time to invest in the children," he said. "Invest your time, invest your money. Create students who are 'at hope' instead of 'at risk.'
"I believe in successful planning and I believe we have to be positive about where we live," Mr. Lannon said. "I'm going to continue to live in St. Lucie County, and this is going to be an exciting place for students. It's such a marvelous challenge. But it will always be 'every child, every day.'"