BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County School Board wants face time with seven superintendent candidates.
Among the finalists who will get interviews for the school district's top spot are the two internal applicants: interim superintendent Sonya Jackson and Ken Pritz, a former executive director of school services for the Hernando district and now principal at Hernando High.
Jackson got unanimous support from the five board members during a workshop Tuesday to narrow the field of superintendent candidates. Board member Sandra Nicholson did not include Pritz on her list.
Also on every board member's short list: Gregory K. Adkins, chief human resources officer and a former principal for the Lee County school district in Fort Myers; Bryan A. Blavatt, former superintendent of Boone County schools in Kentucky; and John R. Phillips, a former executive director of school reform for the public schools in Atlanta.
The board also agreed to interview S. Jayne Risen Morgenthal, superintendent of Elizabethtown Independent Schools in Kentucky, and Aaron K. Mackey, former superintendent for the Princeton City School District in Ohio.
Last month, a search committee comprised of district employees, union representatives, parents and community members narrowed an applicant pool of 28 to nine.
Mackey is the only candidate picked by the School Board who was not on the committee's recommended list.
Board member Dianne Bonfield pushed to include in the discussion an application from Edward P. Mara, a superintendent in Bristol, R.I. Mara's application arrived the next business day after the Oct. 30 deadline. The search committee had agreed not to consider him.
"I think if we don't at least consider this person we're leaving out a candidate who would fit in every one of our qualifications," Bonfield said.
John Sweeney agreed, noting what he said was an abundance of news articles online praising Mara, who garnered Rhode Island Superintendent of the Year honors in 2009. But the other three board members said candidates who couldn't meet the application deadline requirements should not be considered.
"If it's important to you, you make sure it's there," Nicholson said.
Of the seven candidates, three are retired or not working full time, according to their resumes. Nicholson wondered how long someone getting back into the workforce would want to remain on the job.
"I think we need some stability, and we need someone who will hopefully stay here for several years," Nicholson said. "If we're looking at someone who is at the end of their career, I'm not sure that's what this district needs. I don't want to be an afterthought on someone's resume."
Chairman Pat Fagan said he was pleased with the list, retirees and all. Judging a candidate's energy level and potential for commitment is what the interview process is for, Fagan said.
"I think it's a pretty strong field," he said. "If I find the right individual who has retired but who would benefit the school district, I would support it. There is a lot of senior talent out there."
A public reception with the candidates is slated for 6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 11, with interviews with the board on Tuesday and Wednesday. The board could agree on a candidate as early as Wednesday or at a workshop the following week.
The goal is to have a contract signed by early February. The start date is July 1. The salary range is $100,000 to $135,000.
Former superintendent Wayne Alexander struck a deal to leave Hernando in September — nine months before the end of his contract and after a little more than two years on the job — when the majority of School Board lost confidence in his ability to lead the district. The board tapped Jackson, the former executive director of school services, to take over until June 30.
Tony Marrero can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1431.