St. Johns County is touted as “First in State” in FCAT scores. It is one of only five districts in the state to receive an “A” rating for 10 consecutive years while also being one of the fastest-growing school districts in the state. But Superintendent Dr. Joseph Joyner doesn’t judge his district’s success by these numbers.
“Believe it or not, it’s not really test scores that I’m most proud,” Dr. Joyner states with conviction. “We work hard. So do people in other counties.”
In a time with increasing pressure to produce numbers, the St. Johns County School District continues to focus on character. “I don’t know that those [numbers] totally define us. We work very hard to make sure all children are achieving academically, socially and in their character,” says Dr. Joyner.
Birth of an Educator
Passion for education runs deep in the Joyner family. “My whole family is in education. My mother was a teacher. My father was a teacher. My grandmother was, too!” Dr. Joyner’s wife and two daughters teach today.
He insists that he always loved school but admits he knew education was his calling when his father was principal. “Watching my Dad as an administrator – I fell in love with education.”
Following his education at Florida State, decades teaching, coaching and as a principal, Dr. Joyner took on the role of superintendent in St. Johns County.
“For me, public education is a mission. It’s more than a job, more than a profession. You have a real opportunity to make a difference.”
Never out of Touch
As Dr. Joyner shared his journey as an educator and his goals for St. Johns County schools, it was clear that character is important to him not just as an educator, but as a man of faith, father and husband.
“My wife has been a teacher for 36 years – we first met when we were 14. That, for me as superintendent, has kept me incredibly grounded.”
After 11 years in an administrative role, people may wonder if a superintendent could lose touch with daily life in schools. Being a father, he stays in the loop. “I never have to worry about that. Every night I hear about it.” Although Dr. Joyner says this with a laugh, it is clear he’s quite serious.
Always Striving for Growth
The first district in Florida to embrace Pursuing Victory with Honor, a character-in-sports initiative, St. Johns County has long been a proponent of teaching character in the classroom and Dr. Joyner says it contributes to the success of students there.
“Our emphasis on character is more than a cliché on paper. Yes, it’s in our mission statement but it’s everywhere.”
“I’m also passionate about our school-to-career programs – the trend of being career ready is where education is headed.” Dr. Joyner largely attributes the success of Career Academies and St. Johns County students in general to excellent teachers and community partnerships.
“The amount of volunteerism, both faith-based organizations and from local businesses excites me,” he says. “That tells you we have a lot of support.”