Superintendents saying 'See ya!'
Pinellas Superintendent Clayton Wilcox is leaving for greener pastures in New York City. Sarasota County Superintendent Gary Norris is headed for a smaller one in Iowa. Manatee County Superintendent Roger Dearing looks like he's on his way out, too.
The turnover rate for superintendents in Florida is "higher than anyone can remember," Jim Warford, executive director of the Florida Association of School Administrators, told the Gradebook in an e-mail.
And budget cuts appear to be a big reason why.
The state Legislature cut education spending $332 million this year, and more cuts are looming. Superintendents are left with the gut-wrenching decisions about which people and programs to eliminate, even as accountability measures demand that districts do more.
"It's not that superintendents are afraid of making tough decisions. Superintendents make tough decisions every day," said Bill Montford, executive director of the Florida Association of District School Superintendents. "But I'm convinced that there comes a time in even a superintendent's life when they say, 'Wow, should I continue down this path?' Quite frankly, there are other ways to make a living."
Or other places.
Fifteen incumbent superintendents will not seek re-election this year, and four appointed superintendents are calling it quits, Montford said. Meanwhile, other school leaders are also leaving because "the pressure has never been greater and on-going budget reductions have moved way beyond cutting fat," said Warford.
One top-ranking official in Miami-Dade, for example, cited Florida's financial woes in his application to be superintendent in Memphis, Tenn., according to the Memphis Commercial Appeal. "With a devastating revenue shortfall amassing in the state of Florida, public education across the state will be severely hampered in 2008-09 and our terrific reform work will be set back," wrote Miami-Dade accountability chief Kriner Cash.
- Ron Matus, state education reporter