The Guide asked several leaders in education to explain their reasons for choosing our community. —APRIL M. GRIFFIN— Alachua County School Board, District 1 Gainesville and its surrounding municipalities are a wonderful place to raise a family. Our school system is an example of “Why Greater Gainesville.” All Alachua County Public Schools strive to be centers of excellence in all aspects of our students’ education. This year we were one of just fifteen school districts nationwide honored with a US Green Ribbon Schools District Sustainability Award. Our county has a vigorous school choice option with academic magnet options at elementary, middle and high school levels. Both the International Baccalaureate and Cambridge programs are available to our high school students. Our students have consistently ranked among the top in the country and internationally. We encourage all of our students to take Advanced Placement classes and our pass rate for the AP exams is over the state, national and global passing rates. During the 2014-2015 school year, more than 2,300 students took 4,800 AP exams. This fall we are adding the Robotics and Engineering Academy at Loften High School to our list of career and technical academies. Our students in career technical magnets and classes earned over 4,000 industry certifications in the 2014-2015 school year. The Washington Post listed five of our county’s high schools among the nation’s most challenging. Our District boasts a rich array of fine arts education and programs throughout all of our schools. Alachua County students also excel in athletics. We offer a very diverse array of sports at both the middle school and high school level. The community supported our schools by volunteering over 722,000 hours last school year and passing an extra $1 million tax that is vital to our programs. The business community also supports our schools. Last year almost 400 business partners donated almost $3 million through donations, inkind giving and time. There are many opportunities for families to enjoy the fine arts, sports and nature all within our public schools. As you can see, our public schools are “Why Greater Gainesville!” —DR. JACKSON SASSER— President, Santa Fe College The spirit of a people defines a place. When I arrived in Gainesville almost 16 years ago, I was immediately impressed by the warmth and energy of its residents, who combine a strong sense of community with an openness to new ideas and fresh ways of meeting the needs of our community. The people of this city and surrounding region possess an indomitable sense of optimism that never fails to inspire me. They proudly devote themselves to intellectual pursuits and enthusiastically embrace an ethos of community service. Their spirit is the force that propelled Santa Fe College as it grew into one of the most successful community colleges in the nation. Greater Gainesville’s spirit predates Santa Fe, which is an insight why the college was a leader in higher education long before it won the 2015 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence as the nation’s number one college. Back in 1968, just two years after opening its doors, Santa Fe was one of a dozen colleges to establish the League for Innovation in the Community College, a select group of institutions nationwide that set the standard for accomplishment in higher education. No surprise, then, that Santa Fe’s founders and the members of our community shared a vision. That’s because most of them were of the community. They wanted to provide opportunities for people from all backgrounds to thrive, raise healthy families and lead productive, fulfilling lives. Santa Fe was created with that purpose in mind and we have lived up to our promise. Our students receive an outstanding education, whether they are pursuing a degree, enhancing their job skills or seeking personal growth. We graduate citizens who are engaged in their careers and communities and make meaningful and enduring contributions. They are distinguished by their desire to learn what the world has to offer them, and by what they have to offer the world. We serve lifelong education needs even as the pace of change in our society continues to accelerate. Like the community, Santa Fe is constantly reinventing itself to provide students with new opportunities that include bachelor’s degrees, articulation agreements allowing transfer to more state universities, and comprehensive international educational experiences essential for today’s global economy. For all that bustle and drive, we, like the community, still care to nurture. We strive to make each student the most important person on campus. That, along with Santa Fe’s high expectations and commitment to student success, serves graduates well, no matter what their path. Many choose to remain right here in this community. No college has closer or deeper relationships with our great partner in higher education, the University of Florida, than Santa Fe. Our graduates who transfer to UF perform superbly at Gainesville’s worldclass university and go on to pursue careers that are professionally and personally rewarding. They become educators, artists, hardworking public servants and leaders in engineering and information technology. They include risk-takers who start small businesses and form non-profit organizations to meet some of our area’s greatest needs. They continue to confirm the values and vision embodied by Santa Fe’s earliest leaders when they established what truly has become our community’s college. —DR. W. KENT FUCHS— President, University of Florida The signs of progress around Gainesville are unmistakable. Construction cranes on and off campus tower in every direction. Streets and sidewalks are filled with people on a mission. Perhaps most notable, the city is imbued with a sense of purpose and optimism. I have lived here for two years, but longtime residents tell me they have never seen the city and the campus filled with such energy and enthusiasm. Here are just a few prominent examples of our dynamic rapid growth: • The Chemistry/Chemical Biology Building — Known as Hernandez Hall, this building will provide approximately 100,000 square feet for modern undergraduate teaching laboratories, classrooms, teaching support, graduate research laboratories and offices. It is slated to open early this year. • Newell Hall Learning Commons — The renovations to the 28,000-square-foot Newell Hall, originally built in 1910, will transform the existing historic facility into a 21st century learning space centrally located on campus to serve all University of Florida students when it opens this spring. • The UF Health Heart & Vascular Hospital and the UF Health Neuromedicine Hospital — A $415 million project and expected to be completed in December 2017, these two hospitals will give rise to the Southeast’s most advanced home for the care of patients with heart, vascular and neurological illnesses. • The Stephen C. O’Connell Center — This recently completed $64.5 million project has transformed an iconic community and sports venue, first opened in 1980, into a premiere facility befitting the community it serves. • The Herbert Wertheim Laboratory for Engineering Excellence — Destined to be the flagship building for the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering, this 84,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art research and education environment expected to open in 2018 will feature freshman design labs and senior capstone design courses for all departments, faculty and student “collaboratory” spaces, and a telepresence lab to build 21st century communication and networking skills. Last year saw an equally impressive amount of construction on campus, including the striking new expansion of the Reitz Student Union and the completions of Cypress Hall, which includes accommodations for students with higher levels of physical disability support needs, some of whom are veterans, and Infinity Hall, home of the nation’s first entrepreneurial-based academic residential community. Additionally, this past fall, UF rolled out its Strategic Development Plan, a road map for how the university and the community can grow during the next several decades to become truly preeminent together. A series of public meetings during which campus leaders and planners gathered input from the community resulted in a plan that will guide us toward positive growth while retaining all of the attributes that make Gainesville truly unique. The Strategic Development Plan will allow all of us to raise the stature of both the city and the community by capitalizing on the intensive comprehensiveness for which UF is known. A look at other well-regarded universities around the country shows that the best have a truly symbiotic relationship with their communities. I believe that kind of relationship already exists between our campus and our community and is destined to grow even stronger. From the city of Gainesville’s wonderful new Depot Park to the university’s numerous new facilities, Gainesville and the University of Florida are positively humming with excitement. I am thrilled to be part of it, and I think you will be, too. —CATHERINE ATRIA— Principal, PK Yonge Developmental Research School at the University of Florida In 1978, fresh out of a New Jersey high school, I came to Gainesville to attend the University of Florida. I haven’t left. So, why Gainesville? Because Gainesville has: • The feeling of a small town – safe, personal, friendly, comfortable, easy • Vast educational opportunities and experiences offered by the University of Florida and Santa Fe College • Natural beauty – springs, rivers, parks, trails • The vibrancy of a college town • Proximity to larger cities without the congestion and noise • Easy coastal access – both east and west • Outstanding cultural events – festivals, concerts, art shows, plays, athletic competitions • A diverse populace • Amazing local eateries • Access to dialog with government and educational leaders • Opportunities for building a successful career and a better life • A caring community dedicated to the democratic ideals of the nation • Parental voice and choice in K-12 education for their children The last bullet, in my opinion, is a defining quality of Alachua County, and where I have spent over two decades working with Alachua County Public Schools, St. Leo University, P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School and the College of Education at the University of Florida. What I have learned in this time as a teacher, a district office supervisor, an adjunct professor in a teacher preparation program, an assistant principal and principal is how fortunate we are to have so many institutions within our reach who focus on improving educational experiences and opportunities for each and every student. The richness of ideas, the diversity of strategies, the designing and testing of curricula are taking place around us, among us, and with us. Our students – no matter where they go to public school – are directly and immediately impacted by the most current research-based practices. Expert researchers in various areas of education are at our fingertips and invite partnerships to know more and do better for students. We have the ability to put current trends into practice, now. We don’t have to wait for the community to ‘catch up’ because our community is among the leaders in the pack! We are not perfect – no educational institutions are. But we do have local capacity to identify an issue, and design and implement an action plan. We have a diverse, educated populace willing to engage in discourse about sensitive topics and utilize key resources in our community to solve problems. Why Gainesville? Because education is fundamental to a prosperous life. And if you desire choice in educational programs for your children from committed educators with knowledge of current best instructional practices, this is where you want to live. I was just blessed with my first grandchild. My daughter and her husband do not live in Alachua County. It is unlikely my grandchild will attend school here. I assured them that in five years, some of Alachua County and Gainesville will be coming to them. They asked me to bring it. —SANDY HOLLINGER— Interim Superintendent, Alachua County Public Schools When I first arrived in Gainesville with my family in 1976, I didn’t know what to expect. I was pleased to be moving to a university town, but other than that I knew nothing about my new home. Both my husband and I had grown up in the suburbs of Chicago. After completing a fellowship in Tennessee, he had accepted a teaching job with the University of Florida’s College of Medicine. We came to Gainesville with three children in tow, including an infant we had adopted less than a month earlier. It didn’t take long for us to realize that we had found our “forever home,” a place that combined the cultural amenities of a bigger city with the community feel of a smaller town. It was also the perfect place to raise a family. Each of our children received a high quality education from nursery school all the way through high school. While my children were attending local schools (and for several years after they graduated!), I’ve had the privilege of working for Alachua County Public Schools. For more than 30 years I’ve worked in a variety of local schools and district offices. I’ve been a teacher, a principal and a district administrator. In all that time, I can honestly say I’ve never woken up and not wanted to go to work. We have an outstanding cadre of teachers, support staff and school administrators who are dedicated to helping our students succeed. We have families who are actively involved in our schools. We have numerous volunteers and business partners who generously contribute their time, talents and resources. We have a community that not only values public education but is willing to invest in it. Most of all, we have wonderful young people who are accomplishing amazing things both in and out of school. For those and other reasons I was thrilled to come out of retirement to serve as Interim Superintendent of Alachua County Public Schools. I’m proud to be leading an organization that is making such a positive difference in the lives of young people and in the future of this wonderful community. With all that Gainesville has to offer, why wouldn’t someone jump at the chance to live here?
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