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Search for Pinellas superintendent down to four names

The Pinellas School Board this week will interview four finalists to be the next superintendent, beginning a process that will end with a selection Sept. 22 and a formal vote the next day. Here are some questions and answers about that process and how the board got to this point.

How did the School Board end up with these four finalists?

After Clayton Wilcox announced in April that he would resign as superintendent, the board decided within days to conduct a national search to replace him. The board hired a consultant, the Florida School Boards Association, to conduct the search, which brought in 36 applications from 16 states. Working with the association's director, Wayne Blanton, the board narrowed the field to five finalists, all from Florida. One candidate — Barbara Jenkins, a top administrator for Orange County schools in Orlando — dropped out, citing family reasons and a desire to stay in her district.

If so many people applied from other states, why are all the finalists from Florida?

One factor is that Florida, unlike many states, has one school district for each county. That means the state has some of the nation's largest school districts. Many of the candidates from out-of-state were from much smaller districts than Pinellas or did not have the right qualifications. Others had experience in larger districts but had other traits the board found undesirable.

How much is the search costing the district?

Board members set a budget of $25,000, but they hope not to spend that much. The search consultant cost the district $6,000. Other expenses, such as traveling and lodging costs for the finalist visits to Pinellas, are yet to be tallied.

Why is the board spending money on a superintendent search during a budget crisis?

The board could have opted to appoint a permanent superintendent from within the district's administrative ranks, but a majority said a school system the size of Pinellas ($1.5-billion budget; 23rd-largest district in the nation) should conduct a national search for the best available talent. Board member Janet Clark captured the feeling of the majority, saying: "I have no desire to throw money away, but doing something on the cheap is not necessarily going to get us the best candidate for the job."

Why not leave this decision up to the new School Board that will be seated in November, after the election?

Board chairwoman Nancy Bostock pushed for that idea, noting that the new board will have to work with the new superintendent. But she found little support. Other board members agreed that the likely candidates for the job — typically sitting superintendents of larger districts — would not want to leave their current jobs during the school year. They said a spring and summer search was the best time to look. Some also argued that choosing a new superintendent would be too tall a task for board members without experience.

What is the School Board looking for in a new superintendent?

The board listed some of the qualities it wanted in a brochure that went out to candidates. Some excerpts: "Proven success as a strong leader … the ability to involve all segments of the community … experience with strategic planning and the ability to manage a large, diverse school district … a management style that creates a positive working climate … tact and social awareness to deal effectively with critical problems of a progressive school system."

The joke among search consultants is that school boards want a superintendent who is God — on a good day.

How will the selection process work?

The board will interview the four finalists in public sessions on Wednesday and in private one-on-one sessions Thursday. The board will discuss the interviews at a meeting Sept. 2 and decide to invite two or three candidates back for a second interview Sept. 8. The second interview will include public meetings with the candidates, school visits and a public session at the Stavros Institute, 12090 Starkey Rd. in Largo. After taking time to allow public input, the board will meet in workshops Sept. 10 and 22 to settle on a final selection. The board will take a final vote on a new superintendent at its regular meeting, Sept. 23.

Can I meet the finalists?

Yes. The Sept. 8 event at the Stavros Institute is for the public to mingle with the finalists and ask questions in group sessions. The board also will invite representatives from community groups to participate. The district will videotape the board's interviews with the finalists on Aug. 27 and Sept. 8 and broadcast them later. In addition, the board's regular meetings on Sept. 9 and Sept. 23 will include key discussions on the decision, and will be aired live on the district's television station, WPDS-TV14.

How much will the new superintendent be paid?

The salary range for the job is $200,000 to $240,000 plus benefits. Wilcox was earning $204,000 when he left the district this year.

When would the new superintendent start work?

Some time this fall.

Thomas C. Tobin can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8923.

NameAlberto M. CarvalhoNicholas M. GledichJulie JanssenSherrie Nickell
Current jobAssociate superintendent, Miami-Dade schoolsChief operations officer, Orange County schoolsInterim superintendent, Pinellas County schoolsAssociate superintendent, Polk County schools
EducationBachelor's degree in biology/biomedical science, Barry University; master's in educational leadership, Nova Southeastern University; current doctoral candidate, Nova Southeastern University. Bachelor's degree in elementary education, Lock Haven State College in Pennsylvania; master's in educational leadership, University of Central Florida; doctorate in educational leadership, University of Florida. Bachelor's degree in elementary education, University of South Florida; master's in educational leadership, Nova Southeastern University; doctorate focusing on leadership development, University of South Florida.Bachelor's degree in elementary education, Southeastern College, Lakeland; master's in administration and supervision, University of South Florida; doctorate in educational leadership, Nova Southeastern University.
Years in classroom/as a principal or assistant principal4/56/1523/139/9
Career highlights Started in 1990 as a high school science teacher in Miami. Rose to be a school administrator, and by the late 1990s became known as an expert on school reform. Moved to district headquarters in 1998 and rose quickly through the top administrative ranks. Became known for securing major grants and lobbying for Miami schools in Tallahassee and Washington. His current duties include running the district when superintendent is away. Started in 1975 as an elementary school teacher in Orlando and has remained with Orange County Schools ever since. He was an elementary school principal for 12 years, then became a senior director overseeing 23 elementaries. In 1998, he rose to associate superintendent in charge of improving curriculum. Led the district's accountability department in 2003-04 and became chief operations officer in May 2004, overseeing the district's business operations.Started in 1970 as a fourth-grade teacher at Perkins Elementary in St. Petersburg. Returned to her native Belize from 1971 to 1979 and continued teaching. Returned to Pinellas in 1980 and worked at several schools as a math and computing teacher. In 1991, became an assistant principal at Lakewood High. Was principal at Countryside High (1998-2004) and St. Petersburg High (2004-06). Tapped in 2006 to be deputy superintendent. Appointed as interim superintendent after resignation of Clayton Wilcox. From 1979 to 1989, worked as a private school teacher in Alabama and Michigan and as a public school teacher in Lee, Highlands and Polk counties in Florida. She served as an assistant principal in Polk for four years and as a principal for five years before entering the top administrative ranks. From 1998 to 2005, she served as the human resource development director for Polk schools. Since 2005, she has been an associate superintendent, serving as Polk's chief academic officer.
Main pitch to school board "A strategically focused, high-achieving administrator with more than 18 years of proven results in educational leadership. … Succeeded in building bridges with virtually every aspect of the community." "I have served Orange County Public Schools in many different capacities over the last 31 years from classroom teacher to Chief Operations officer. … Leading change and inspiring educational excellence is what I do best.""As an interim superintendent with a reputation for fairness and integrity, I have the expertise and vision to successfully guide us in these challenges and to make this district one of the best in the country.""My leadership style is centered on developing human potential and building collaborative relationships. I strongly believe in data-based decision-making. … I espouse strongly the values of mutual respect and commitment, civility and transparency."

How they stack up

A look at the four finalists for Pinellas schools superintendent


Candidates on TV

A televised forum featuring the candidates for the Pinellas School Board will be broadcast several times through the Aug. 26 primary election on WPDS-TV14, the school district's television station.

WPDS is available on Bright House Networks (Ch. 614), Knology (Ch. 14) and Verizon (Ch. 46). The two-hour forum, held Thursday at Osceola Fundamental High School, can be seen again at the following times: today at 8 a.m., 3 p.m. and 9 p.m., and Monday and Tuesday at 8 a.m., 4 p.m. and 9 p.m.

The candidates are Janet Clark, Jennifer S. Crockett, Max Loden and Grant Smith for the District 1 at large seat; David O. Archie, Nina Hayden, Minnie Morris, Sean O'Flannery and Ron Walker for the District 2 at large seat; and Chris Hardman, Steven D. Isbitts, Ken Peluso and Robin L. Wikle for the District 4 seat representing North County.

Voters also can study the candidates by going to a Times special report at featuring video conversations with the candidates, their positions on the issues and coverage of the race. Go to and click on the apple.

Search for Pinellas superintendent down to four names 08/23/08 [Last modified: Thursday, August 28, 2008 2:26pm]
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