GARY SHIFFRIN: ‘Dr. Desmond Blackburn A Good Fit For Our Schools’

By  //  August 2, 2015

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A Former Educator's Perspective

A new era for Brevard County Schools has begun with the hiring of new Superintendent of Schools Dr. Desmond Blackburn, left, with longtime Brevard County educator Gary Shiffrin. ( image)

A new era for Brevard County Schools has begun with the hiring of new Superintendent of Schools Dr. Desmond Blackburn.

As the Executive Director of the Brevard Association of School Administrators, I was a member of the citizens ad hoc committee that advised the school board during their deliberations to make this important decision of hiring the CEO of our school system.

Although the other finalists had great credentials and outstanding experiences, there was something that Dr. Blackburn had that I knew would be a good fit for our schools. In fact, at the bottom of the form I turned in to the board with my input I stated, “I could work for this man!”

So what makes Dr. Blackburn the right person for Brevard County? For one thing, he has charisma!

It is so important for a leader to instill confidence and motivation in order for followers to believe this person is going to make right decisions and provide direction that will be positive and good for our students, teachers, administrators, parents and communities.

From our initial meetings with our new superintendent, it is very evident that this will take place.

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Secondly, Dr. Blackburn has an understanding that he will need some time to listen to the people to determine what is good and what might need some changing.

He has already indicated that he has learned that our district is certainly above the rest, and much of that is attributed to the outstanding commitment and dedication of those who provide our students with the quality education and support they need to excel.

Thirdly, Dr. Blackburn has indicated that he firmly believes that the success of our students lies in the hands of the teachers, school administrators and all others who provide support to the first two. Yes, all play a part but it is what happens in the classrooms that is the key.

ABOVE VIDEO: Brevard Public Schools interviews the new Superintendent Dr Desmond Blackburn.(Brevard Schools Video)

As a former principal, it is refreshing to hear a Superintendent state what should be obvious to everyone. My job was to support my teachers and make sure they had the resources and training necessary to I still quality instruction to their students for their success.

As a principal, if I did not properly motivate my staff then I would have to deal with teachers who did not have the dedication needed to have the right attitude to instill success.

And finally, Dr. Blackburn has been placed in situations while working in Broward County that will be an asset to our district.

In particular, overseeing the instructional programs of over 200 schools will give him the skills to know what will work for our students. With all the discussion about assessments, Dr. Blackburn understands we have a problem with all the standardized tests are students are required to take and his initial comments have indicated this will be addressed.

In other words, it sounds like he is willing to take on those who continue to increase more testing and make something happen that is reasonable that maintains accountability – and also determines what our students need to address their deficiencies.

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Anytime there is change, whether it is a new coach, a new program, or a new CEO, there is hope. The same thing is true about a new Superintendent of Schools. There is hope that the new leader will retain all the good happening in the district and make enhancements to those areas that need assistance.

With all that Dr. Blackburn brings to our district, including his motivational attitude, I believe the students, teachers, administrators, parents and communities are in good hands and the future is very bright for the Brevard County schools.


Gary Shiffrin retired in 2013 after a long and outstanding career with the Brevard County Public Schools that spaned 42 years, and several schools.

Gary Shriffrin
Gary Shriffrin

He was the principal of Merritt Island High for 10 years, and before that Shiffrin spent 14 years, 10 of them as principal, at Thomas Jefferson Middle School in Merritt Island. For six years, he was assistant principal at Cocoa Beach High School.

Shiffrin served at Stone Junior High School for a year just after he had left Melbourne High School, where he started his teaching duties as an educator and coach.

Also a coach and athletic director, Shiffrin served as the commissioner of the Cape Coast Conference for 23 years and was the Space Coast’s representative on the FHSAA assembly. He was inducted in the Florida High School Athletic Hall of Fame last April.

In addition to being a regular columnist, Shiffrin covers education and prep sports for Space Coast Daily.