Facing Our Challenges and Our Abundant Opportunities

The “back to school” exhilaration you are all feeling is very familiar to me. The arrival of students in our classrooms is a reminder of the many bright possibilities each student has for success.

As your Commissioner of Education, our charge as educators to help them realize those possibilities is no less significant to me on this day than it was when I served as a teacher, school principal or administrator. Education is the only profession I know in which you can begin anew each year. What an amazing opportunity!

During the past few weeks as commissioner, I have been inspired by the clear message I have received from everyone I’ve spoken with – parents and teachers, Governor Scott and other state officials, superintendents and business leaders: make Florida’s education system the best it can be so all students succeed in college, careers and in life.

The most important part of a child’s education is the support from his or her family. All educators need the support and communication from a child’s parents or guardians to make sure they are working together to help each child succeed. Please help your child by sharing your concerns and support for your child’s teacher and schools and please consider volunteering to help other children. It is not easy work, but a few hours of your time with students can make a lifetime of difference.

As leaders in a state at the forefront of education, we enter this school year together, facing our challenges and our abundant opportunities with equal confidence, creativity and hard work.

I am grateful for each of you and the care and talent you contribute to the education of our students, and for making Florida the best place in the nation to learn, work and live.

Best wishes for a successful year.

Pam Stewart, Commissioner

Guest Blog: Kids are back to school; let’s keep them safe

U.S. Department of Transportation
It’s “Back to School” time, the season when the daylight hours grow shorter and our roads grow busier. It’s also time to get street smart.

Fewer daylight hours can make it harder for motorists to see young students. So, whether your kids are walking, riding a bicycle, or catching a school bus or other public transportation to travel to and from school, please take a few moments to talk to them about safety.


On its Parents Central website, our National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) offers a wide range of safe transportation practices for kids on the move. We encourage you to start with these tips:

School Bus: School buses are the safest mode of transportation for getting children back and forth to school. Even so, kids need to be especially careful around the school bus “danger zone” – 10 feet in front, 10 feet behind, and on each side of the bus.

Kids should:

  • Wait five giant steps from the road and when the school bus arrives, wait until the driver says to board.
  • When boarding the school bus, go straight to your seat and sit facing the front and do what the school bus driver tells you to do.
  • When exiting the bus, look out for cars. When you’re off the bus, take 5 giant steps from the school bus.
  • Look left-right-left to make sure no cars are coming and wait for the driver to signal it’s safe to cross.

Walking: Pedestrians 10 years old and younger must be accompanied by an adult or young adult on their way to and from school.

Kids should:

  • Walk on the sidewalk and if there is none, walk facing traffic.
    Do not push or shove others when you walk.
  • When crossing the street, look left-right-left for cars. Do not cross if a car is coming and use a crosswalk if you can.

Biking:  The two best protections when biking to and from school are a properly fitted bicycle helmet and a good grasp of traffic safety rules.

Kids should:

  • Always wear a helmet and make sure to buckle the chin strap.
  • Ride along streets with low traffic volume and at lower speeds.
  • Always ride in the same direction as traffic, and stop at all stop signs and signals.
  • Never use headphones or cell phones while riding.

Car: Children should always ride in the back seat. Children in the front seat are 40 percent more likely to be injured in crashes.

One last tip for parents: whether it seems that way or not, your kids are watching you! Please stay completely focused on the road –whether you’re walking, biking or driving– and put your cell phone away when in traffic.

For more back-to-school safety tips and to reinforce children’s pedestrian, bicycle, school bus and/or public transportation habits, please remember to visit NHTSA’s Parents Central.

We wish you and your kids a safe school year.