Six former school district officials seek Florida education commissioner job
The search for a new Florida education commissioner did not attract one single superintendent or assistant superintendent from a district of any substantial size. (Two leaders of tiny Michigan districts did apply.) The ad did draw several former district leaders, though.
Maria Goodloe-Johnson had been seen as a rising star until her dismissal as Seattle schools superintendent in March amid a district financial scandal. She popped up shortly after as a finalist for the Newark, N.J., superintendency that went to Cami Anderson. Now she's put in for the Florida commissioner job. The Seattle media reported that Goodloe-Johnson left saying she was sorry, but then changed her tune when interviewed in New Jersey. She used similar language in her application for the Florida job:
"It should be noted that I lead (sic) considerable reform in Seattle Public Schools in 3.5 years which included approval of a teacher contract that linked student achievement to teacher evaluation. There was considerable push back from the union and they voted no confidence in the superintendent when the contract passed in September. During my tenure I made some very tough and unpopular decisions; closing schools, cutting the budget, establishing a coherent curriculum, performance management plan that held the district accountable and instituting an assessment system. The current board that terminated my contract was not the board that hired me to lead reform."
Closer to home, Wayne Alexander is a familiar name for the Tampa Bay area. He served as Hernando schools superintendent for two years before an abrupt and messy departure. He began interviewing for jobs in the northeast without informing the Hernando board, as required by his contract. Alexander, currently special education director for Hartford, Conn., schools, explained in his application:
"At the conclusion of my first year as superintendent, our district made significant academic gains and we developed many new programs for students. My performance led to a contract renewal and extension. At the beginning of my second year, I married a women (sic) from Connecticut. Unexpectedly, we were not able to relocate our family to Florida. I informed the school board that I would need to leave at the conclusion of my contract. My decision caused a great deal of distraction to the district, my family and me. As a result, the school board and I decide (sic) to end our working relationship before the end of my third year."
Marvin Jeter most recently worked as an assistant superintendent in Tulsa, Okla., schools. His position was eliminated in 2010, along with several teacher jobs, as part of budget cutting. He was reassigned to a principal job at an alternative high school. "Due to philosophical, ethical and more differences in expectations for dealing with student behavior, I resigned Oct. 21, 2010," he wrote in his application. He has not gotten a new job yet, although he was a finalist for superintendent of Little Rock, Ark., schools.
Ofelia San Pedro is another Florida candidate, having joined the Miami-Dade leadership team when Rudy Crew became superintendent. She had worked for Ryder System, the trucking company, before becoming a deputy superintendent for business operations. When Crew was forced out, some talked about her becoming superintendent. Instead, she too was soon gone. She worked for a year at the Center for Educational Leadership and Technology in Boston before becoming chief operating officer of Kaplan Virtual Education. "I am strongly committed to making a world-class education a reality for all Florida students," she writes. "I have a proven record of reform in Miami-Dade and have significant experience leading large complex organizations. ... I am confident in my abilities as a leader and I believe that my experiences have prepared me to lead educational reform in the state."
Randy Shaver became superintendent of the 7,600-student Tupelo, Miss., public school system in mid-2009. Two years later, he was ready to leave amid public anger over his treatment of a high school principal and concerns about discipline in the schools. The Tupelo mayor had this to say after Shaver's resignation in April: "It has been the way he tried to implement his strategies that failed to enlist the trust and support of many teachers, parents and members of the community. He apparently realized that his presence had become so emotionally volatile that it was hurting the district." Shaver glossed over the situation in Tupelo in his application letter. He wrote:
"My experience has prepared me for the challenges of leading in the Florida Department of Education. I am a leader whose vision for the future, honors the organization's past, whose instructional leadership is soundly documented by improved student achievement, and whose management style is grounded in inclusiveness and an incremental approach to change."
Thomas Goodman, retired superintendent of San Diego public schools, has a lengthy resume of education achievements including head of a community college system and director of US Department of Defense Dependent Schools in Europe and the Asia/Pacific region. He most recently ran a charter school system in California until funding dried up. Even after his retirement, the San Diego Union-Tribune continued to view him as a "class act." He writes in his application:
"I maintain an interest and knowledge in what's happening in reform efforts, Race to the Top programs, advances in virtual learning, charter schools and other alternative programs, and in the use of data to assess and improve programs for student achievement. My particular interst is in successful education reform efforts taking place in Florida, New Jersey, Wisconsin and throughout the nation. Unfortunately educational reform has been stifled in my home state of California and others because of employee unions and politics, thus I am excited about a state like Florida which has high ambitions for all students."