Julie Young, longtime Florida Virtual School leader, is stepping down


Julie Young, the longtime leader of Florida Virtual School, the nation’s largest public provider of online learning, has announced she is retiring.

Young, who served as Florida Virtual School’s president and chief executive officer for 17 years, called the experience “one of the greatest joys that I could have ever imagined.”

“I believe that FLVS has made incredible strides toward transforming education worldwide, one student at a time, showing the world that if you put the student at the center of your decisions, provide them with a teacher who meets them where they are, and works tirelessly to take them where they need to be, educational miracles do happen,’’ Young said in a prepared statement released Thursday.

“After 30 years in public education … it seemed the right time to begin a new adventure,’’ FLVS spokeswoman Tania Clow told redefinED. “It also seemed the right time for FLVS: there is a stable and quality leadership team in place, student outcomes are very positive, and an infrastructure for continued innovation and growth has been established.’’

Clow added Young has been presented with several opportunities, and will be pursuing those in the near future. “Of course, she will miss the FLVS family, but she is excited about what is ahead for her and the organization,’’ Clow said.

Young launched Florida Virtual School in 1997 as an Internet high school with 77 initial enrollments. Today, Florida Virtual School is an award-winning Florida public school district with five schools serving more than 410,000 enrollments.

At the direction of Legislature, Young also expanded the online network and created FLVS Global School to serve students nationally and internationally.

She has “earned the rare title of visionary,” former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said in a written statement. She “took a small start-up called Florida Virtual School and from that she created a national model for unleashing the power of 21st century digital technology in public education.”

“Julie has made a significant impact on our state’s education system and has been a pioneer of virtual education,’’ Michael Olenick, chairman of the Florida Virtual School Board of Trustees, said in a press release. “During her tenure, FLVS has transformed education and delivered unprecedented learning choices to hundreds of thousands of students in Florida and around the world.’’

The program enjoyed huge success and growth up until last spring, when lawmakers tweaked per-student funding in a way that ultimately caused a dramatic dip in the number of students signing up for Florida Virtual School courses. Young oversaw first-time layoffs of teachers in the program and was leading the charge to fend off more cuts during the upcoming legislative session.

Now that mission will go to a new leader, who has yet to be determined. Young was required to give a 90-day notice, per her contract, and has agreed to work with the trustees to find her replacement and help with the transition.