Sunday, February 25, 2018
Education

Pinellas School Board chooses three superintendent finalists

LARGO — After rejecting a last-minute push to pursue a more aggressive search for a new schools chief, the Pinellas School Board picked three finalists.

One has been a top state education official, the other is a strong academic leader and the third implemented Colorado's first voucher program.

Two board members, Robin Wikle and Glenton Gilzean, pushed for a new search, saying they weren't convinced that the pool was as strong as it could have been.

"To be honest with you, I don't think we've found the best of the best," Gilzean said.

But board member Carol Cook said she was concerned about the message to finalists if the board extended the search. "We're basically saying, 'These people, they're not good enough,' " she said.

The three finalists include

Mike Grego: a former superintendent in Osceola County who was an assistant superintendent in Hillsborough County and successfully handled Florida's request for a waiver from No Child Left Behind. He served for five months as Florida's interim chancellor for K-12 education.

Constance Jones: chief academic officer for Lee County schools since 2003. She was an accreditation specialist for the Maryland Department of Education for one year. She was a finalist for the top job in Palm Beach County last year.

Christian Cutter: assistant superintendent for the Douglas County School District in Colorado since September 2010. He was an executive director of schools for Colorado Springs District 11 for three years. He implemented Colorado's first voucher program.

Board members are tentatively scheduled to publicly interview the candidates on Aug. 22 and 23. They also will have private one-on-one sessions with each one. The board will then discuss its next move at a workshop Aug. 28.

It didn't take long Tuesday for board members to whittle down the candidate pool from 50 to an initial list of 10 and then to the top three. Some candidates were unqualified. Others lacked enough administrative experience. Some came from tiny, out-of-state districts.

Just two applicants — Grego and Jones — were selected by a majority of the board in the first go-around. Cutter was selected by three members.

Only one board member made a strong case for an internal candidate. Terry Krassner made a plea to include William Corbett, an area superintendent.

"He is in Pinellas, he can hit the ground running," she said.

Other members said Corbett would be a promising candidate — in a few years. He's been an area superintendent for less than a year.

Wayne Blanton, executive director of the Florida School Boards Association, conducted the search and steered board members away from the other internal candidate, Ron Ciranna. He said Ciranna, head of human resources, had contentious relationships with union representatives and would not be a collaborative leader.

At one point during the discussion of the candidates, Wikle announced that the Pinellas Education Foundation has offered to pay $30,000 toward a new search, done by a professional recruiting firm. The business-led nonprofit organization has been vocal recently in offering suggestions to the district about its leadership and how to save money.

Wikle said the board had time to do another search because superintendent John Stewart said he could extend his stay until March if necessary.

But Blanton discouraged the board from another search, saying it would lose the candidates who had applied. Interview them first, he urged.

"I think you're going to be impressed," he said. "I think your community's going to be impressed."

Cara Fitzpatrick can be reached at (727) 893-8846 or [email protected] or on Twitter @Fitz_ly.

Comments
Special Olympians shine at county summer games

Special Olympians shine at county summer games

NEW PORT RICHEY — It was one of those perfect days, when sunscreen and shade are in high demand, smiles are aplenty and the camaraderie on the field trumps the thrill of victory.About 600 Special Olympians and unified athletes from west Pasco schools...
Published: 02/23/18
Pasco foundation battling childhood hunger one school at a time

Pasco foundation battling childhood hunger one school at a time

ZEPHRYHILLS — On a Thursday morning in a small warehouse off Gall Boulevard, a well-oiled machine of goodwill is cranking. At the Thomas Promise Foundation, volunteers Carlos and Robin Clothier, pack boxes of macaroni and cheese, granola bars, apple ...
Published: 02/23/18
After Parkland, another plea for rumor control: ‘This is not a joke’ (w/video)

After Parkland, another plea for rumor control: ‘This is not a joke’ (w/video)

ST. PETERSBURG — The mayor and the police chief came to Northeast High on Thursday to warn students about the dangers of circulating rumors of school safety threats on social media.While they were there, one of those unfounded rumors popped up on Fac...
Published: 02/22/18
Collards, ribs and Kool-Aid: Black History Month menu at NYU stirs controversy

Collards, ribs and Kool-Aid: Black History Month menu at NYU stirs controversy

NEW YORK — On Tuesday, a dining hall at New York University advertised a special meal in honor of Black History Month. On the menu? Barbecue ribs, cornbread, collard greens, and two beverages with racist connotations: Kool-Aid and watermelon-flavored...
Published: 02/22/18
Arming teachers? Some officials like the idea, but many educators don’t (w/video)

Arming teachers? Some officials like the idea, but many educators don’t (w/video)

With high school students from Parkland in the Capitol this week advocating for gun control, the bill that would have allowed superintendents and principals to designate trained employees who can carry concealed weapons at school didn’t get heard as ...
Published: 02/22/18
How will Douglas High students go back to class? There’s now a plan in place.

How will Douglas High students go back to class? There’s now a plan in place.

When students return to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High for the first time next Tuesday, they will be greeted by additional counselors and law enforcement."There will be a plethora of counselors and services at the school," Broward Schools Superintende...
Published: 02/21/18
School shooter may get inheritance — and be ordered to spend it on legal bills

School shooter may get inheritance — and be ordered to spend it on legal bills

Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz appears to have been in line for a sizable inheritance. He’ll never get to spend it — except perhaps on defense attorneys.The amount could be enough to compel a judge to order him to hire a private lawyer, rather ...
Published: 02/21/18
Pasco County schools, dealing with threats, warn students of consequences

Pasco County schools, dealing with threats, warn students of consequences

DADE CITY — A Pasco High School student was taken into custody Tuesday amid accusations of threatening violence against the school. The campus was not at risk, school district officials said. But they made clear they take each threat seriously, and t...
Published: 02/21/18
‘Blind Side’ star delivers message to Newsome High kids

‘Blind Side’ star delivers message to Newsome High kids

LITHIA — Students, faculty and staff recently scurried inside the Newsome High School gym for a morning assembly to hear a message about bullying from a man who kids once taunted.Newsome’s principal Carla Bruning invited actor Quinton Aaron, star of ...
Published: 02/20/18
Updated: 02/23/18
Spoto High helps students un-bottle emotions with Challenge Day

Spoto High helps students un-bottle emotions with Challenge Day

RIVERVIEW — Spoto High School English Department Head Adam Sherman can’t help but wonder if a program he introduced to Spartan students could have changed the trajectory of Nickolas Cruz’s life before he gunned down and killed 17 people on Valentine’...
Published: 02/20/18
Updated: 02/23/18