Mondays with Maria: The School Year Finale
Posted on 05/20/2024
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Announcer: Welcome to Mondays with Maria, presented by Addition Financial Credit Union. Here's OCPS Superintendent, Dr. Maria Vazquez.

Dr. Maria Vazquez: Hello. I can't believe I'm saying this, but we're here again for the last Mondays with Maria for another school year, and I have a new friend with me today. This is Kaleb Priester and Bri McNaught. You all remember Bri? She's been here before. She's part of our Communications Division and they are both here for our final episode. Welcome back. And Kaleb, you and I met at Jones High School. Be Great, Jones High School earlier this year during a Bright Futures Scholarship event, correct?

Kaleb Priester: Yes. But I just had to come on the show, tell you that I'm a huge fan and I watch almost every episode.

Dr. Maria Vazquez: Oh my gosh. So I'm so happy to hear that. I was really impressed when I first met you. So you watch Mondays with Maria. So tell us what's your favorite episode?

Kaleb Priester: If I had to choose one episode, that's my favorite I would probably choose maybe last year's Christmas episode when you had the "A" students here and you were reading them a book, and then you made it snow here in the studio,

Dr. Maria Vazquez: You know and the snow was all because of the phenomenal team that puts Monday with Maria together. I know you got to meet some of them today. But, you know, that really was one of my favorite episodes. I actually have a picture really on my desk of the kids when the snow is falling. Yeah. They were so excited. And I am, I'm excited to share with you that next year we're going to be doing a lot more with students coming on the show. We want to be able to have them do some interviews and have them partake and, and share some things about their school. So why don't we start asking you what are some great things that are happening at Jones High School?

Kaleb Priester: Okay. So lately we've been very focused on academics. We've had like test prep, tutoring, individual data chats, and also to kick off testing season. We had an awesome glow in the dark pep rally.

Dr. Maria Vazquez: Oh my gosh. I've never, what, what is that?

Kaleb Priester: So it was like, like we were in the gym, the lights were off. We had glow in the dark things and we just had a good time.

Dr. Maria Vazquez: Wow. So Kaleb, you're a junior. Junior. A junior. So did you prom, is prom coming up for next year or did you get to go this year?

Kaleb Priester: I went this year because I'm like, junior class president. So we helped plan it and. We executed it.

Dr. Maria Vazquez: Okay. So I have a question. Okay, I have a question because I was like, wow, how did they pull that off? Where did the camel come from? <Laugh>. So for those that don't know, tell them what the theme was.

Kaleb Priester: All right. So our theme was a night in Dubai. We know a guy who knows a guy <laugh>, and so we got a camel. Everyone loved the camel. It was great.

Dr. Maria Vazquez: It was, I saw pictures. I go, my God. I said, is that a real camel?

Kaleb Priester: It was real.

Dr. Maria Vazquez: And they told me it was a real camel. Okay. So next year I want to be invited. Okay.

Kaleb Priester: Not a problem. I'll make sure to get invited.

Bri MacNaught: Better yet. Can we get the Camel on Mondays with Maria?

Dr. Maria Vazquez: Uh? No, not really. No, no, no, no, no. I don't think so. I don't think so. So that's very, very cool. I'm very excited. It was awesome. Yeah, it, it's great to hear students talk about their perspective about what's going on in our schools and really to see the pride that they have talking about their, their school and the things that are happening with their teachers, other students, how they're trying to get them engaged. So I'm really excited about the student focus for next year.

Bri MacNaught: Dr. Vazquez, do you have any highlights from this school year?

Dr. Maria Vazquez: Well, I, I do. I think first of all, it's hard to believe that it's coming to an end. I still remember August and gearing up for the start of the year. And so I think it's been a year where we really have tried to highlight both with our employees and our students how we're building a positive school community. And to see pictures of events that were taking place, things that were happening at schools where you saw that excitement, where you saw the joy of coming to work is definitely is definitely what is sticking with me for this year. So there are five notable things that I want to highlight about this year.

Announcer: Number five.

Dr. Maria Vazquez: Student engagement. Something I was so pleased to see happen this year is our students engaging in face-to-face conversation after we implemented the bell to bell cell phone policy. I heard from so many students during our board meetings, and when I visited schools, it really was so great to see students interacting without a phone in their hand.

Announcer: Number four.

Dr. Maria Vazquez: Orange County Public Schools was named the Cambridge District of the Year in the large district category. Over the past three years, the district has increased opportunities for students to participate in the Cambridge program with students achieving at a high pass rate.

Announcer: Number three.

Dr. Maria Vazquez: We were awarded the best Communities for music education in the United States for the eighth year in a row. This prestigious designation is awarded by the National Association of Music Merchants. They acknowledge districts for their unwavering commitment and support for music education for students.

Announcer: Number two.

Dr. Maria Vazquez: 45 of our schools are on this year's Schools of Excellence list named by the State Board of Education. 11 schools were added to this year's list.

Announcer: Number one.

Dr. Maria Vazquez: It has to be the historic 9% raise for our hardworking employees, the highest ever and highest among all of our surrounding school district.

Bri MacNaught: Dr. Vazquez, I think we have a couple more. Now, I know you don't like to steal the spotlight from others, but that's what I'm here for. I'm going to brag about you for a little bit. You had a few different honors that you were recognized for on behalf of the commitment you have to our students and our community. Our first one that you received was the Don Quixote Excellence Award. Now, this award recognizes Hispanic individuals who have demonstrated leadership or made significant contributions. You are also selected as number one on the list of educators in Orlando magazine's 50 Most Powerful, and you were named a 2023 Power Player by the Orlando Business Journal. And it doesn't stop here. The National School Public Relations Association recognized you as a Superintendent to watch. Congratulations, and we are so thankful that you are our Superintendent here at the eighth largest school district in the nation.

Dr. Maria Vazquez: Well, thank you for acknowledging those recognitions. But all of those are a result of the incredible support that I have. We have an amazing school board employees that give each and every day to support our students and their families. And none of that would be possible without them. And so I, I give kudos to them because that's where it all really has happened. Thank you both for joining me on the last episode of Mondays with Maria for this school year. Kaleb, it's so great to see you. I'm excited for you in your senior year, and I have a feeling I'll probably be touching base with you again next year. So this won't be the last time for you on this set. Okay, <laugh>, thank you for watching. I hope that you all have a relaxing and restful summer break. Remember, you can always go to for information and resources throughout the summer. We'll see you back here in August for another school year and season three of Mondays with Maria. Enjoy your summer and keep reading.

Kaleb Priester: Wait, Dr. Vazquez, I did bring some friends to help you end your season.

Dr. Maria Vazquez: Friends, I love friends <laugh>, who are, who did you bring? Come on out.

Dr. Maria Vazquez: Oh my gosh. Wow.

Cheerleaders: Let's go orange. Let's go green, orange, green

Announcer: Mondays with Maria's presented by Addition Financial Credit Union. Count us in for every step of your financial journey. Learn more at For more OCPS news and information, visit I'm your announcer Deivarsi Demezier, a senior at Apopka High School. Thanks for watching and have a great week.