TAMPA — The state Board of Education hired an Iowa search firm Thursday to help find a replacement for departing Education Commissioner Eric Smith.
Gary Ray of Ray and Associates Inc. said he will have applications to the board by May 25 and arrange interviews with 10 to 12 candidates by June 1.
Smith, who plans to leave June 10, has not spoken in depth about his decision to resign and declined to comment again Thursday. Hired by the state Board of Education in 2007, Smith, 60, said in a statement weeks ago that Gov. Rick Scott should have input in selecting the person to carry out his education agenda.
Still, all five board members at the meeting made it clear they are looking for someone like Smith. Roberto Martinez went so far as to say he hopes to find "Eric Smith's twin."
Scott is expected to appoint three more people to the board.
Board member John Padget asked the search firms whether they were familiar with the Chiefs for Change, an alliance of five state school chiefs led by former Gov. Jeb Bush. Besides Smith, they include Indiana state superintendent Tony Bennett, Rhode Island Commissioner of Education Deborah Gist, Louisiana state superintendent Paul Pastorek and Virginia Secretary of Education Gerard Robinson.
Asked afterward about his interest in those leaders, Padget said, "I think the board is united that we really want to have superstars. "
Board member Kathleen Shanahan said during the meeting that she thought Gist might have an interest in the Florida job. But Shanahan clarified later that she had not spoken to Gist. Formerly of Tampa, Gist designed Hillsborough Reads, a one-on-one literacy tutoring program. She has two more years on her Rhode Island contract.
"She's said many times she's committed to stay in Rhode Island," said Elliot Krieger, spokesman for the Rhode Island Department of Education.
Rebecca Catalanello can be reached at (727) 893-8707 or firstname.lastname@example.org.