The Educator: Susan McManus

The Educator

Susan McManus

Photographer by Vanessa Rogers at Poinciana Elementary School

Susan McManus - Education Foundation of Collier County - Champions for Learning

More than 20 years ago, former teacher Susan McManus and a small group of local business leaders founded the Education Foundation of Collier County (now being rebranded Champions for Learning) upon the premise that “the best communities invest in their children.” The foundation, with McManus at its helm as president, identified ways to celebrate and support outstanding students, teachers and principals, such as the hugely popular Golden Apple awards for teachers. “We began to see that change was always going to happen. We needed to be a stable force in the community,” she says. In 2008, McManus recognized that there was a notable lack of trust for the public system precipitated by the politics of the school board, superintendent and other leadership, so she spearheaded the Connect Now initiative. It was an 18-month community engagement that tasked citizens to write a statement of their aspirations and expectations for their community and its schools. That statement now serves as a guide for increasing school accountability and responsiveness to the surrounding community. The Education Foundation’s efforts have resulted in numerous improvements and initiatives, including the Take Stock in Children program, serving 390 students so far, with 95 percent graduating high school and 99 percent accepted into post-secondary institutions. “What I try to do is stay focused on what’s right for kids,” she says. “I think when adults start worrying about adults, especially in education, that’s when we all get off track.”

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