August is here, and it’s time to turn our attention to the upcoming academic year. And who better to go back to school with than Pam Gould?
Serving two terms as Vice Chair for Orange County Public Schools, Gould has positively impacted education in District 4 since her election in 2012. She has championed young female empowerment, forging partnerships that inspire and mentor young women and men while pioneering increased skills-based learning and entrepreneurial programs and introducing a progressive approach to mental health care in schools. Her commitment to growth is reflected in her instrumental role in increasing industry-aligned certifications, ensuring diverse learning options and a safe environment for the district’s students, advancing new technology usage and creating sustainable job opportunities for ESE students.
As we stand on the threshold of another good year, Gould shares her thoughts, ambitions, and plans for the vibrant educational landscape ahead. But most importantly, she highlights ways the community can engage more actively in shaping the future of our schools.
Last Year’s Triumphs and the Road Ahead
Over the last year, despite the challenges, District 4 schools saw notable successes, including state championships, the first graduating classes of Horizon West and Lake Buena Vista High Schools, exposing K12 students to career paths, and the appointment of new Superintendent Dr. Maria Vasquez.
Gould says the district has made significant gains but has much further to go regarding delivering quality education amidst the fast-growing West Orange County and raising awareness of all the great programs OCPS offers.
“It’s a competitive marketplace out there. Our school system’s greatest challenge is attracting quality staff in a tight marketplace. We need to continue to move wages and benefits to meet the cost of living and competitive market,” Gould says. “I am very proud of the quality education product that all the educators in West Orange deliver. Every parent must make an informed decision for the right choice for their child, but if they look under the hood of OCPS, they will see that we have many options and programs that can fit their child’s unique needs and characteristics,” Gould says.
Bridging the Gaps with Community Engagement and Active Involvement
The essence of the community lies in participation and collaboration, and the future of the local schools is a shared responsibility the community bears. Using OCPS’ apprentice and internship partnerships with the high-tech and construction industries as an example, Gould says having more community members to volunteer and support closing some of the learning gaps for those who need extra help due to the learning losses during Covid-19 or who may not have the technology or other resources at home is critical. In her continued quest to boost equitable access to technology, Gould sets her sights on a transformative goal.
“One goal I have before I leave office is to have a 6-12 Polytech that partners with industry and local higher education institutions on the west side of town,” she says. “The idea is to have everybody graduate with an industry certification, even if they are going on to get their Ph.D. eventually. That gives each student job skills to use immediately or in the future.”
Gould believes that by focusing on cutting-edge fields like medicine, autonomous vehicles, and energy, the Polytechnic institution could be a breeding ground for certifiable technical skills and groundbreaking inventions. Such an establishment wouldn’t just offer an alternative educational path for 6-12 graders; it would actively shape the technological landscape of the future.
Joining Hands for the Future
Transformative goals like the 6-12 Polytech and influencing the success of every student requires community support. This includes faith-based, grassroots organizations and other strategic business partners who can offer their time and talents to the youth and show them all the available career paths.
One such example is the Gen Wow program that will return this fall. GenWow is a Girl-Centric movement that brings together high school students with women leaders to learn what is possible and be inspired by the positive while making valuable network connections.
“My desire would be in middle schools, in particular, to have people more engaged with our middle school students, either in mentorship, sports programs, or after-school activities,” Gould shares. “It’s an exciting time to move forward. The world is working and moving so fast that if we can bring the technology and the basic core education forward, plus hands-on experiential learning, the sky’s the limit for the next generation.”
Gould will continue to host Table Talks throughout the school year at rotating locations throughout West Orange for anyone interested in actively engaging in what is going on in District 4 to come and have informal discussions. So, as the school doors swing open, let’s take this opportunity to rally together, contribute our unique skills and resources, and make the upcoming academic year one for the history books. For more information on the opportunities and programs at OCPS, visit ocps.net or contact School Board Member Gould at email@example.com.
The new school year is not just a fresh chapter for students but an opportunity for everyone to learn, grow, and contribute to the education narrative in our community.