News Section: Schools and Education
Manatee School Board Reviews Process of Selecting a New Superintendent
At Tuesday’s workshop, the school board listened to Florida School Boards Associaton Executive Director Wayne Blanton outline ideas and present suggestions, questions, and answers on how to move forward in selecting a new permanent superintendent.
Calling the board's selection of a superintendent the most important decision they will ever make, Dr. Blanton also suggested that expectations of Dr. McGonegal's permanent replacement should not be excessively high, given the district's current situation of dire finances and low test scores. "Superman and Superwoman are not available," he said.
Dr. Blanton recommended a public interview process that would allow citizens to question candidates by submitting question sheets that are deemed legitimate by board attorney John Bowen, which would then be passed on the board chairman, who would speak them aloud to candidates in an open meeting.
Board member Karen Carpenter suggested the board convene such a public hearing relatively soon, to which Dr. Blanton agreed. "This is a community effort," he said, recommending that the board invite not only individuals, but various county businesses and community organizations as well.
Ms. Carpenter also brought up the November election's effect on the process, alluding to the change in the board resulting from the election of one of the two candidates vying for resigning board chair Harry Kinnan's seat, and thus the possible change in consensus regarding how best to seek a candidate. In response, Dr. Blanton said that the length of time in choosing a candidate can be up to the current board if they desire, but that they may want to choose a cut off date several months after the new board member becomes active.
Both Ms. Carpenter and fellow board member Julie Aranibar discussed with Dr. Blanton the possibility of selecting a new interim superintendent while the board is still in the process of picking a permanent one, as the board had not yet decided whether to keep Bob Gagnon as interim until then.
Dr. Blanton advised that he knew of three available interim candidates if the board feels that a new one is needed, all with previous superintendent experience in the state of Florida and highly reputable: Dr. Art Johnson, who was superintendent of Palm Beach for 11 years; Dr. Bill Vogel, who served in Seminole County for 8 1/2 years after serving in St. Lucie County; and Dr. David Gayler, who had previously served as deputy in Manatee before becoming superintendent of Charlotte County for 8 years.
During the meeting, board member Barbara Harvey expessed concern about how potential candidates may view their chances if Mr. Gagnon were to apply for the position. Dr. Blanton acknowledged that some potential candidates would be turned off by knowledge of competing with an "insider," but that most districts allow interims to seek permanency, and noted that Palm Beach recently decided to pick their interim as superintendant after reviewing several other candidates.
Ms. Carpenter reminded the board of their agreement to further discuss the length of Mr. Gagnon's term as interim at next Monday's regular meeting. Later on, Mrs. Harvey recalled that at the board's September 10 meeting, Mr. Gagnon indicated that if he decided to apply for a permanent position and was not picked, there may be some friction in helping the new superintendant. "I just think that we need to know his intent (about the position)," she said.
The FSBA Director made few terse suggestions, acting mostly as an advisor that presented the board with options that they are free to make in the process of making a final selection. He also offered the FSBA's services as a candidate seeker, though the board had not yet made a decision on who to hire for such a position, if they choose to not go through the selection process entirely by themselves.
One strong suggestion that the Doctor did make, was that the board should not accept candidates who only have superintendent experience in districts that are tiny in comparison to Manatee’s district of 45,000 students. Another was that the board should seek a candidate who is willing to commit to the job for at least 8 to 10 years in order to help foster a stable environment in the district.
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