Superintendent to speak at Diversity Luncheon

Jacqueline Byrd

Nominations are now being accepted for the Diversity Awards given annually at the Diversity Luncheon which is scheduled at noon on Wednesday, Sept. 19.

The annual event sponsored by the Bartow Community Relations Committee will feature Superintendent of Polk County Schools Jacqueline Byrd as the guest speaker.

Tickets for the event are $12 apiece and can be purchased at the Bartow Chamber of Commerce or at www.bartowchamber.com.

Each year a business or organization and an individual wins a diversity award which recognizes them for its racial and ethnic equality shown in the last year.

“There are daily reminders to us all of how important this issue still is in America, and that promoting racial and ethnic equality and ending racism and discrimination requires awareness, commitment, and action,” said Gloria Washington, Chairman of the CRC. “This is an opportunity for Bartow to stand up and be counted in an ongoing effort to make sure our community fosters racial and ethnic equality and harmony.”

At last week's Bartow City Commission meeting commissioners proclaimed Sept. 16-22 Race Equality Week to spotlight ethnic equality and justice issues.

Byrd has been the superintendent of Polk County Schools since February 2016 making her the first black superintendent in Polk County. She moved to Polk County in 2013 as deputy superintendent.

She has worked in the public school system in Florida for 25 years and before moving to Polk she was the Chief of Schools for Duval County. In Duval County in 2005, she was recognized for increasing student achievement in one of the most challenged elementary schools and saw the grade at that elementary school rise from a D to an A in three years.

She was faced with a similar challenge in Polk County where several schools are under turnaround plans due to consecutive years of poor grades. This perhaps has posed a bigger challenge than in Duval County because of the size of Polk County's school system and the marked difference between its rural and more metropolitan areas.

“Our district covers a geographic area about the size of Rhode Island with students who come from diverse backgrounds, each child with an innate curiosity and thirst for knowledge,” she said.

Byrd earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Education from the University of North Florida and her Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership from Jacksonville University.

TO NOMINATE

To nominate a business or organization for the Diversity Award, go to bartowchamber.com and click on “2018 Community Relations Committee's Diversity Luncheon” where you can find a link to the nomination page. Rules can be found on the page as well as an area to make a nomination. Deadline to nominate is Sept. 7. For information call the Greater Bartow Chamber of Commerce at 863-533-7125.

PAST DIVERSITY AWARD WINNERS

2007

Individual: C.C. Corbett

Business or Organization: Board of County Commissioners, Clerk of Courts

2008

Individual: Larry Madrid

Business or Organization: Fred's Southern Kitchen

2009

Individual: Leo Longworth

Business or Organization: Peterson's Cleaners

2010

Individual: Fred Murphy

Business or Organization: Flanders Prescisionnaire

2011

Individual: Sharon Casey

Business or Organization: Polk County Sheriff's Office

2012

Individual: George Long

Business or Organization: Bartow Youth Football

2013

Individual: Joyce Thurman

Business or Organization: Mosaic

2014

Individual: J.J. Corbett

Business or Organization: TiAnViCa Riding Academy

2015

Individual: Melony Bell

Business or Organization: Church Service Center

2016

Individual: Ken Riley

Business or Organization: Bartow Police Department

2017

Individual: Gloria Washington

Business or Organization: Eastside Positive Action Committee

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