Wayne Gent

Superintendent, Palm Beach County School District

Wayne Gent, 58, is in his first full year as superintendent of Palm Beach County Schools, and so far, so good. (Even the horrible flooding during the second week of the school seems like ages ago.) As head of the 174,000-student district, Gent faced everything from changing teacher standards to budget cuts to family socioeconomic struggles when he sat down in his new office chair last February. What keeps him awake at night? “I don’t worry,” he says. “My main concern is making sure our students get a quality education.”

Early into the job you went on a listening tour of the county. What did you hear?

One thing that I heard was that folks were really pleased with our school district, particularly our business community. We want to work closer with them in marketing the positives that many folks don’t know about. A lot of people don’t know about our career centers, and we need to do a better job of marketing them.

Do you think technology has to be a part of today’s classroom learning?

Absolutely. Technology is changing every day, and we certainly have to meet that need. It’s crucial. It’s crucial not just for the success of our students but for the success of our country.

There is a lot of discussion among teachers about core teaching standards versus the continuation of the FCAT? What’s going to happen in Florida?

We’re going to common core. (Across-the-board learning standards.) That’s going to happen. It’s really going to raise the bar for our students and enable them to compete nationally and globally. But it’s important that we tie this into our teacher training; we’re going to have to work on that.

Who was your favorite teacher, and why?

My eighth-grade history teacher, Mr. Mantiachi. ... I like that he engaged the students. You knew that he cared about you. He made history fun and exciting; he brought it to life.