Tampa, Florida -- Hillsborough County Schools Superintendent MaryEllen Elia admits the last school year was a turbulent one for districts across the state.
The state raised the bar on student achievement, taking a more aggressive approach when grading the FCAT.
"It was a year of transition. There were lots of changes in all the rules related to accountability for the state of Florida and our schools," said Elia.
While many schools across the state struggled, Elia touted her district in which 2 out of 3 of elementary students earned a passing score on the FCAT.
ButFriday was a day to look forward to the new school year.
It will be a school year that will get started with some big changes for students, especially those who live closest to the Republican National Convention event zone.
The district has been preparing for the RNC for more than a year.
"We have established a shift in the bus routes and we're starting that the first day of school so we will get used to running those routes," said Elia.
She is encouraging parents to put their children on the school bus during those first few weeks of school to help alleviate traffic in the areas around the RNC event zone.
"We have school security that will be on those buses that will facilitate our buses going through the fast lanes off of Harbour Island and we're facilitating those buses on Davis Islands as well," she explained.
The district says it will communicate any changes with parents via Parent Link and social media like Facebook and twitter.
There are some other big changes in store for several Hillsborough County students. Elia spoke of the partnership with Microsoft which will put IT Academies in 57 schools to prepare students who may want to enter the workforce right after graduation.
"Our students, when they graduate from the IT Academies will be able to become certified in one or more of the following areas: Microsoft Word, Power Point, Excel, Access and Outlook," said Elia.
500 teachers trained with Microsoft last weekend.
More than 2,000 students earned industry certification during the last school year, a number Elia hopes will significantly increase over the next few years.
Several schools will also being using X-Box Kinect to help students learn by solving math equations in an interactive way.
Elia also proudly announced the district has a 95% retention rate of new teachers this school year, up from 86% last school year and 72% during the 2010-2011 school year. She attributed this rate to the Empowering Effective Teachers initiative.
Some other changes this year...
All school buses will be equipped with video surveillance cameras. This has been a gradual addition over the last few years, but this will be the first school year when all buses are equipped.
Elia says what will stay consistent this year is the continued focus on student achievement.