FORT WALTON BEACH — The current superintendent of Okaloosa County schools is in her final full week in office.
Six years after first stepping into the leadership role, Alexis Tibbetts is making way for the newly elected superintendent, Mary Beth Jackson.
Jackson will be sworn in Nov. 20.
“It’s been a wonderful journey, and I say that sincerely,” Tibbetts said. “I wouldn’t have traded this experience for anything. I’ve committed my life and career to this county and the students that are in it, and I’m glad that I did.”
The former teacher and principal first arrived to the office at 120 Lowery Place in Fort Walton Beach after beating out both a fellow Republican and a Democrat for the seat vacated two years earlier by then Superintendent Don Gaetz.
She was unopposed when she ran for her first full term in 2008.
Tibbetts said she’s proud of what she accomplished, even if much of it didn’t come easy.
She had to recommend closing four schools because of declining enrollment in two parts of the county, but she also got to open two new ones in Crestview to handle growth.
She has seen difficult administrative staff cuts but also managed to largely keep the cuts away from the classroom.
The district has also risen to meet rigorous, and constantly changing, state and national standards during her tenure.
“I feel good about where I’m leaving the district,” she said. “(But) I haven’t done this in isolation. I have been surrounded by very dynamic, brilliant, hard-working people.”
The journey has not come without regrets, she said. The biggest among them was what she called a communication breakdown between parents, teachers and the district about the end-of-course exams created last school year to help prepare students for a more rigorous national exam slated for 2015.
“Anytime you’re in a job for six years, I think you’ll look back and have some regrets,” she said.
As she starts packing up her office this week, Tibbetts said the best advice she could give Jackson is to use the trove of knowledge that will surround her from the school board and senior staff to teachers and principals.
“(I’d tell her) just continue to work hard to move this district so that every single child in this district has the ability to be career and college ready, if that is their choice, when they graduate from high school,” Tibbetts said.
As to her own future, Tibbetts hasn’t made any firm decisions. She has options, she said, but right now she’s going to take some time to focus on some other important aspects of her life.
“I’m going to take time to be with my grandchildren, and my husband, and my daughters and their families and my friends,” Tibbetts said, noting the recent arrival of her second grandchild. “I’ve been proud to serve, but I know there’s other things ahead for me.”
Contact Daily News Staff Writer Katie Tammen at 850-315-4440 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @KatieTnwfdn.