POLK COUNTY — On Tuesday, Polk County Public Schools Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd announced her retirement, which will be effective Feb. 26, 2021.
The target retirement date would mark a tenure of just over five years as the district’s superintendent — Byrd was sworn in to her role on Feb. 23, 2016.
Byrd announced her decision by way of an email sent to employees of Polk County Public Schools. Per a release from PCPS staff, Byrd is not participating in interviews with the news media at this time and plans have not yet been made for finding a replacement for her position.
“It has truly been an exciting time to lead as your Superintendent, deciding to retire was a very difficult decision,” Byrd writes to PCPS personnel in the letter. “I cannot help but consider that every journey, no matter the ups and downs we may encounter thereon, always has an end (part of the journey is the end). ... I wanted to take the time to again say thank you for working tirelessly to further our mission: providing a high-quality education for all students.”
The letter goes on to cite a number of the milestones the district achieved while Byrd served as superintendent, including getting the district’s grade from a “C” to a “B” for 2017-18 and 2018-19, as well as increasing the district’s graduation rate from 69.4 percent to 81.2 percent, among other things.
In a second letter, this one addressed to the Polk County School Board, Byrd also addressed some of her frustrations with the board.
"Lately, however, some Board Members have either acted or attempted to act in ways that materially blur the respective roles and responsibilities of the School Board (policy and budget) and Superintendent (operations)," Byrd writes. "Moreover, the willful and increasing overreach has been unprecedented in my 32 years of experience in education, including 13 years in senior leadership positions. Such disharmony has become a major roadblock, not just to my efforts to continue building upon the accomplishments identified above, but also to the tasks with which we all have been entrusted: the education, protection, and promotion of Polk County's greatest assets — its children."
Byrd came to Polk from Duval County in 2013 to serve as deputy superintendent.