Florida Principal and Administrator Deborah Darbonne Is Committed to Educational Equity

 Deborah Darbonne

As the principal of Florida City Elementary School, Dr. Deborah Darbonne has dedicated her career to addressing educational equity, transforming students' lives, and advocating for meaningful change within the educational system. Growing up as a child of immigrant parents, she experienced firsthand the challenges that arise when students lack access to quality education.

"As a young adult," Darbonne says. "I became very interested in addressing disparities in educational opportunities to ensure that all students have access to a high-quality education, regardless of their background or circumstances."

Deborah Darbonne's Culture of Care and Empowerment

Darbonne's dedication to her craft can be seen in the numerous achievements that have marked her career. Under her leadership, Florida City Elementary, a Title I school serving a high-poverty community, continues to trend toward positive academic outcomes, defying the odds and shattering stereotypes about the academic potential of students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

"The education field offers me countless opportunities to enact meaningful change and support student success," she explains. "I see my current role as principal as an opportunity to lead and shape the direction of a school community as well as have a significant impact on the lives of students, teachers, and families."

By fostering a culture of care and collaboration, Darbonne also inspires her staff to go the extra mile for their students, creating a school environment where everyone feels proud, committed, and connected.

The Defining Moment that Shaped Dr. Darbonne's Career

Darbonne's career took a significant turn after receiving a surprising phone call that changed how she viewed things and made her even more dedicated to working in education.

Ten years after leaving her first teaching position, Darbonne was invited to attend the high school graduation of one of her former students, Alice Brown.

"Alice had been a student with a challenging background," Darbonne recalls. "Raised in a neighborhood with high crime rates and low socioeconomic status, many saw her simply as an ESE student, a label that almost became her reality until I decided to take a personal interest in her progress."

As Alice's second-grade ESE (Exceptional Student Education) Resource Teacher, Darbonne recognized her potential and worked tirelessly to dismiss her from the Special Education program. Over the next few years, Darbonne continued to mentor Alice, providing guidance and support beyond the classroom's confines.

"By the time Alice entered middle school," Darbonne shares, "she was not only performing well academically but had also become a Safety Patrol and a role model for other students, demonstrating remarkable resilience and determination. When I received the invitation to her high school graduation, I was overwhelmed with pride and reflection."

Attending Alice's graduation ceremony was a profound experience for Darbonne. "Alice's journey from a struggling elementary school student to a high school graduate epitomized the potential in every child," Darbonne says. "It was a tangible reminder of the difference an educator can make, and it has forever shaped my leadership style to be even more student-centered, fostering a culture of care, empathy, and high expectations."

Deborah Darbonne's Innovative Approaches to Learning

Deborah Darbonne has carried that student-centered vision throughout her career. Inspired by Alice's journey, her leadership at Florida City Elementary focuses on creating structures and systems to ensure all students get the individualized support and access to the resources they need to succeed.

Darbonne is also at the forefront of innovative approaches to learning. Under her leadership, Florida City Elementary has integrated cutting-edge technology to personalize the learning experience for each student.

Technology integration has also allowed the school to develop a robust social-emotional learning (SEL) program, which focuses on developing skills such as self-awareness, self-regulation, and empathy. This approach to education ensures that students excel academically and develop the essential life skills needed to thrive in and out of the classroom.

Inspiring the Next Generation of Educators

Darbonne has also made significant contributions to the field of education through her teaching and mentorship roles. She previously taught courses at the collegiate level at Miami-Dade College and Barry University and often shared the inspirational story of her former student, Alice, to highlight the influential impact teachers can have.

Beyond her work in higher education, Darbonne has also volunteered as a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) and within the Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America organization.

Darbonne's Personal and Professional Values

Deborah Darbonne lives by a strong set of professional values that guide her decision-making and actions. "Integrity, empathy, and a strong work ethic are essential in building trust and fostering meaningful relationships with colleagues, students, and stakeholders," Darbonne explains. "Effective communication, both in listening and expressing ideas, is crucial for successful collaboration and problem-solving."

Darbonne's personal values, which she strives to integrate seamlessly into her professional life, include integrity, respect, family, balance, personal growth, honesty, and assertiveness.

"I believe in living by my principles and maintaining consistency between my actions and beliefs," Darbonne says. "Respecting others' autonomy, boundaries, and individuality is just as important as striving for balance and continuous self-improvement."

Deborah Darbonne's Proud Achievements

Among Darbonne's most cherished accomplishments is earning her doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Florida, specializing in Teachers, Schools, and Society.
"Obtaining my doctoral degree was a journey of self-renewal, passion, and purpose," Darbonne shares. "It helped me hone my skills in navigating the pressing problems of practice we face daily in education. It is something that I've wanted to do for a very long time and did not think that I could accomplish. While it was challenging, I did it!"

Another source of immense pride for Darbonne is her role as a mother. "Motherhood has brought me both challenges and immense fulfillment," she reflects. "Like the journey of earning my doctorate, it has been a transformative experience that has shaped me into a better version of myself."

As Darbonne continues her journey as an educational leader, her commitment to educational equity and innovative learning approaches serve as a beacon of hope for students, families, and communities across Florida City and beyond. Her story is of relentless passion, dedication, and the firm belief that every child deserves a champion.

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