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26 MAKE BID TO BE STATE SCHOOL CHIEF

An extended deadline brought only two more applications for the education commissioner job.

It's a tough time to be Florida's education commissioner.

The Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test is under fire after a scoring mistake. The state faces a revenue shortfall that has educators scrambling to find places to cut without affecting the classroom.

Still, 26 people have found the job appealing enough to apply to oversee the state's $23-billion education system. It's a relatively small field - the 2005 Hillsborough County superintendent search yielded more resumes - even after the state extended the application deadline by 10 days.

That extension, which ended Monday, came amid rumblings that the candidate pool lacked depth, something Education Department spokesman Tom Butler denied.

"This is a very serious and very high-profile position, and the state is making sure they have a large enough pool of candidates to make sure we get the right person," Butler said when the deadline was extended. "I don't think it means that any of the candidates in there are not desirable. ... There are some qualified people in there. What's the harm in having more qualified people in there?"

Just two people jumped in after the first deadline. Neither had stronger credentials than the leading candidates already in the hunt.

Some of the more notable applicants included K-12 chancellor Cheri Yecke, who also has run the education systems in Virginia and Minnesota; William Moloney, a retired Colorado education commissioner; Tom Watkins Jr., a former Michigan superintendent of public instruction; Earl Lennard, a retired Hillsborough superintendent; and Jim Warford, a former K-12 chancellor who heads the Florida Association of School Administrators.

The Education Department showed no indication that it would accept any more resumes.

"At this point, Proact (the search firm) has not made any recommendations to further extend the deadline for applications," Butler said in an e-mail to the St. Petersburg Times.

Still, at least one person offered to be the white knight if the Board of Education doesn't like its choices.

Thomas Tocco, a former Pinellas assistant superintendent, wrote in a letter to the search firm that he wouldn't be a candidate in the first round.

But if the board would like to talk to him afterward, "I would feel duty-bound to respond to the needs of the state which has provided so much to me and my family," wrote Tocco, who made his mark nationally as superintendent of the Fort Worth (Texas) Independent School District.

Florida has been without a permanent education commissioner since John Winn, a Jeb Bush appointee considered the architect of the A-Plus Plan, retired in February. It was widely speculated at the time that newly elected Gov. Charlie Crist wanted his own education team.

Crist reportedly has maintained a hands-off position in the commissioner search, though the State Board of Education has asked for his advice as it looks. Interim Commissioner Jeanine Blomberg, who has served in the department about 30 years, has declined to seek the job, which pays $195,416 to $275,058.

If all stays on track, the search firm is supposed to provide a list of recommended semifinalists to the state board on Aug. 14. The board has said it wants to have a commissioner hired by October.

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at solochek@sptimes.com or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at blogs.tampabay.com/schools.

- Dannett Babb, education consultant and former advisory counsel to the Florida education commissioner.

- G. Ellis Gary, a school administrator in Dothan, Ala.

- William Harner, deputy to the chief executive officer of Philadelphia public schools.

- Henry Hastings, education consultant in Michigan.

- Robert Jennings, president of Alabama A&M University.

- John Jones, dean of computer information at West Virginia Northern Community College.

- J.T. Kador, director of the Marcus Garvey Cultural Center at the University of Northern Colorado.

- Emanuel Klimis, retired Pinellas County teacher.

- Marilyn Bonilla Krantz, former chief executive, Planned Parenthood of South Palm Beach and Broward counties.

- Earl Lennard, retired Hillsborough County superintendent.

- Joseph Marinelli, a district superintendent for a four-county New York state education region.

- Joseph A. Malloy, assistant principal, Sligh Middle School, Tampa.

- William Moloney, former Colorado education commissioner.

- Simon Priest, provost of Colorado Technical University Online.

- Joram Rejouis, program director, Essex County (N.J.) Educational Services Commission.

- Eric Smith, senior vice president for college readiness, the College Board.

- John Sullivan Jr., education consultant in Florida and retired school superintendent.

- Deena Stevens, a former Osceola County School Board member.

- Stephen Stohla, superintendent of Alliance, Ohio, schools.

- Cristina Treffner, executive director, English Language Learners program, Stamford, Conn., public schools.

- Sandra Tuttle, practice coordinator, Parkview Hospital, Fort Wayne, Ind.

- Jim Warford, executive director, Florida Association of School Administrators.

- Thomas Watkins Jr., former Michigan superintendent of public instruction.

- Lisa Wilson, chief operating officer of an unspecified "Florida nonprofit."

- Robert Woody, psychology professor, University of Nebraska at Omaha.

- Cheri Yecke, Florida K-12 chancellor.

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