BROOKSVILLE — The 34 candidates vying to be the next superintendent of Hernando County schools come from across the state and the country, many boasting backgrounds as high-level administrators and years of experience as educators.
But the two candidates to beat might already be in the district.
Ken Pritz and Sonya Jackson, Hernando's two assistant superintendents, are both in the running for the position.
And it's not their first time.
They were finalists in the last search before Bryan Blavatt was chosen in 2010 to lead the district. At the time, Jackson was serving as the interim superintendent; Pritz was the principal at Hernando High School.
Currently, Pritz is in charge of the division of teaching and learning, while Jackson commands the division of student support services.
Blavatt, who is retiring at the end of June, was credited for grooming his successor in his previous job in Kentucky. When he was appointed in Hernando, School Board members said they hoped his mentoring would bring forth a person to eventually take his place.
There are 32 other candidates in the running.
They include seven superintendents, some from very small districts or schools, and two former superintendents. Seven candidates are assistant superintendents or deputy superintendents.
Fifteen come from Florida.
Some have run unsuccessful election campaigns for superintendent in the past or are currently applying for other superintendent jobs.
Sandy Balfour, an English teacher with the Academy of Environmental Science in Crystal River, ran unsuccessfully for the elected superintendent position in Citrus County in November.
Diana Greene is the deputy superintendent of Marion County public schools. She lost a bid for the county's elected superintendent position in November and is now serving the remainder of her contract as an elementary school principal.
Greene, who lives in Ocala, also has applied to become the superintendent of Manatee County schools, a position that opened when former superintendent Tim McGonegal resigned amidst a budget crisis.
Four other Hernando candidates are also applying for the superintendent's job in Manatee: Dennis Albright of Sutton, W.Va.; Richard Murphy of Clewiston; Steven Cobb of Fort Wayne, Ind., and Constance Jones of Estero.
The deadline to apply for the Hernando position was midnight Wednesday. That's more than a month longer than the original deadline — Nov. 30.
The district was forced to extend the application period after the School Board unexpectedly changed the job description.
The initial description called for all candidates to have a master's degree in education. Board members later reversed that decision and now are requiring a master's degree in education or a related field.
The advertised salary range is $100,000 to $130,000.
The 34 applications will now be sent to the School Board and an 11-person search committee that will review the candidates.
The search committee will finalize its recommendations at the end of January, submitting them to the School Board on Feb. 1.
The board is slated to select finalists on Feb. 19, conduct interviews in March and select a candidate on March 19.
The next superintendent's official start date is July 1.
Danny Valentine can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1432. Tweet him @HernandoTimes.