For Glades schools superintendent: Barfield vs. Brown

Posted 10/8/20

There are two remaining active candidates in the race for Glades County superintendent of schools whose names will appear on the Nov. 3 ballot.

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For Glades schools superintendent: Barfield vs. Brown


MOORE HAVEN — There are two remaining active candidates in the race for Glades County superintendent of schools whose names will appear on the Nov. 3 ballot.

Glades is one of 26 counties out of Florida’s 67 that elect the schools superintendent; in the other 41, that person is appointed.

Alice Beth Barfield of Moore Haven is facing James (Jamie) Brown, also of Moore Haven.

Barfield, 49, is a 1990 graduate of Moore Haven High School (now MH Middle High School or MHMHS) and then studied at Florida Southern College, graduating in 1994. She now is principal of a K-8 school and has filled other positions for the Lee County School District since 2013, when she left a job with the Glades County district to take a different kind of leadership post. She’d started out as a language arts teacher, which she said is a passion of hers as a onetime wannabe journalist.

“Previously, I was a ‘Turn Around Principal,’ assigned to schools which were low-performing and I was tasked with raising the achievement and proficiency levels. I also have been awarded by the State of Florida for being a ‘High Impact Principal.’ I have served in educational leadership as an assistant principal, district level administrator and principal for elementary, middle and high schools.”
She is a self-described Christian Republican, has been married to Thomas Barfield for 17 years, and they have two sons and a daughter.

“I have been blessed with three children, Tom, Kathleen and T.J. Two of my children are graduates of Moore Haven High School ... both attended and graduated from Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Tifton, Ga., with degrees in agriculture. My youngest son graduated in 2018 from Riverdale High School, and just recently graduated from Hodges University’s EMT program.”

Brown, also a graduate of MHMHS, who earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Nova Southeastern University and graduated in 1992, has worked for the Glades County School District since 1993 and is presently director of administrative services. “During my 27 years in the field of education, I have taught at the elementary, middle and high school levels with three years in administration. I earned my master’s degree in educational leadership from the University of West Florida,” he related.

“I started in that position on July 1,” he said about his most recent post. Previous to that, “I was a seventh- and eighth grade math teacher for probably 18 years.”

Brown has no party affiliation. As for his family, he said: “I am proud to say that my wife, Niki Brown, also a graduate of the Glades County school system, and I have raised our daughter in this wonderful community. Having been a product of Glades County schools, Shelbi went on to graduate from the University of Alabama and Florida State College of Medicine. She is currently in her second year of residency at the University of Kentucky specializing in obstetrics and gynecology. Needless to say we are very proud of Dr. Shelbi Brown!”

Queries we posed
We asked both candidates a series of questions:

What are the biggest issues or challenges facing the Glades County School District for the 2020-21 school year now under way? And how would you deal with them?

Barfield: “The greatest challenge outside of student well-being and safety, for the Glades County School District this year is the need to foster the culture of academic achievement and high performance. I believe it is of the utmost importance that every student is taught by a certified teacher who is well versed in successful educational practices.”

Brown: “I know there’s issues that our school district faces, like all districts. (But) we have excellent human resources, from the school board, administrators, teachers and including all the support staff. Our staff has responded to the COVID situation in a very positive and caring manner for the benefit of our students ... We all have issues, but I think we have great kids and great staff here that work to get through those things. I try to look for the more appreciable things that we have. With that being said, I think the biggest issue is the health and safety of all of our staff and students, basically as it relates to COVID.

• Are you satisfied with the district’s current plan for coping with the COVID-19 outbreak?

Barfield: “I am not satisfied with the district’s current plan on how they are handling the COVID-19 outbreak. I have been very adamant and outspoken that there is a lack of transparency from the standpoint of the school district to parents, as well as to the staff. As a school district, our No. 1 priority is the safety of all students. If elected, this will be something that I will address very quickly and if I am not fully satisfied with the Reopening Plan as written; at the time, I will readdress with stakeholder input including staff, parents, community members, students, medical and professional personnel.

Brown: “A lot of things in the plan were directed, or brought about by, what the CDC guidelines were. We were trying to ... make sure that we ... worked closely with our health department to help with contact tracing, trying to put social-distance safety measures in place in our schools. Our reopening plan ... increased our cleaning and sanitation efforts. We purchased electrostatic misters, and used them throughout our schools. We implemented two runs for students on buses to mitigate the exposure and help with social distancing ... Are there other things we need to change? Yes ... we need to continue to look at and readjust it as we go through, and we’re starting to notice things ... that need our attention.”

How do you feel about the district’s CTE program, and do you support former Superintendent Scott Bass’s vision of trying to bring iTech from Immokalee in with other surrounding school districts to help utilize the Glades County Regional Training Facility? Will you continue to work toward securing the state grant he sought or lobby the legislature for it to the extent GCSD is able?

Barfield: “I feel that there has been ‘a lot of talk and empty promises’ which is at the cost of taxpayers and has hurt many students who could have benefited from a strong technical program. This has also hurt the economic development of our community/county because we have for 10 years been ‘talking’ about this project and therefore not establishing a strong technical workforce that our county so desperately needs. As superintendent, I will work with legislature and lobby for the accrual of grant monies to establish a successful program. If the past superintendent’s vision is stagnant and not coming to fruition, we must create our own vision. I love the quote, ‘Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.’ It’s time our vision of a technical school become a reality for Glades County! With my leadership it WILL happen.

Brown: “Oh, definitely. I think that the Career and Technical Education programs that we have definitely need to be revamped. There needs to be an increased emphasis (on that) because ... although we have several students that go to college, we have a lot for whom, college is not necessarily what they want to do. There are a lot of high-wage jobs that those students are able to get, provided they can get some of these industry certifications. I have been working with Hendry County because we are such a small county, and Hendry does a lot of the same things. That (grant being turned down) was one of the biggest obstacles ... so I think it’s something that we definitely have to form a coalition ... being able to come up with a plan that will benefit the adult education programs as well as the career and technical education programs (is what) we need to be able to utilize that facility to its fullest. I think (we need that) to pull in Immokalee iTech, taking students from other surrounding counties — it’s centrally located as the airport (Airglades) comes in — and those jobs are going to be in demand, and there’s going to be a need for training to be able to fill those jobs with students who are certified in those areas.”

• Finally, how is the return to school going, other than the closure of MHMHS for nine days? How do you feel parents and students are adapting to this new COVID-19-precautioned world?

Barfield: “After weeks of trial and error, I think we as an educational organization have learned a lot. Plenty of challenges have emerged; however, I view these challenges as growth potential. We can look at what is not working and create optimal processes and procedures for the future. I feel it has definitely confirmed the importance of communication and transparency on the school district’s behalf. Parents want to know and they deserve open communication.”

Brown: “I just think the focus … needs to be on attracting and retaining certified teachers and qualified staff. We live in an area here that doesn’t have a lot of infrastructure and limited housing, not having a local grocery store — those kinds of things make it hard for us to draw in people outside of our county, but being able to work on expanding those opportunities to be able to bring in highly qualified certified teachers, and staff members — all that’s going to benefit our students. (We must) continue to improve the curriculum and student achievement, especially with the kids being out of school over the last few months of the previous school year and then, with the proportion of our students now who are doing e-learning, (we have) to solidify that e-learning curriculum and make sure that it’s still rigorous and make sure that our students are achieving like they need to.”

Barfield’s email address is

Brown’s is

schools, superintendent, Alice Beth Barfield, James Brown, Jamie Brown