LARGO — And they're off!
Pinellas County School Board members began the race Tuesday to find their fourth superintendent in eight years.
A week after John Stewart announced his plans to leave the district in December, board members discussed who they should hire to help them find his replacement.
Should they go with the Florida School Boards Association, which led the $11,446 search that ended with them hiring Julie Janssen in 2008? Or should they open it up to national firms like Hazard, Young and Attea Associates, which helped them land Clayton Wilcox in 2004 for a search cost of $62,435?
Expect a vote on the issue during the March 20 board meeting.
Though a majority of the board — Linda Lerner, Peggy O'Shea, Terry Krassner, Janet Clark and Carol Cook — said they would like to work with FSBA, board chairwoman Robin Wikle and board member Glenton Gilzean want to hear from others.
"I think if we just jump off and use this one agency without doing our homework, I think that's dangerous," Gilzean said.
In 2004, the FSBA, led by executive director Wayne Blanton, helped lead the board through a four-month search that resulted in the district offering its top job to Alberto Carvalho then a 19-year veteran of Miami-Dade school district. When Carvalho turned down the position, the board hired Janssen.
Stewart called Blanton, whom he's known for 30 years, "a natural choice" and "national leader."
Blanton played a role in the board's decision to hire Stewart as interim superintendent after Janssen's firing.
"He knows what you would be looking for in the way of a leader," Stewart said, "and he knows each of you individually, too, and what you're expectations, your aspirations and your desires are."
Wikle said that opening up the process to more firms shows diligence: "It's a lot of work, but that's what we're here to do."