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Published May 18, 2011

Quality over quantity.

That's the mantra search firm officials are emphasizing as they near the May 25 deadline for applicants to lead Florida's massive public educational system.

So far, Ray and Associates has received just three completed applications, according to the company's executive search assistant. They areThomas Goodman, a former charter school superintendent out of La Jolla, Calif.; Bessie Karvelas, district chief instructional officer for Chicago public schools; and Carlos Lopez, superintendent of the River Rouge School District in Michigan.

But Bill Adams and Gary Ray of Ray and Associates told members of the state Board of Education Tuesday that they don't expect the most qualified candidates to submit applications until the last minute, in part due to the state's Sunshine Laws.

"You can go out and get a bunch of numbers, but that's not what we're after," Adams said.

The pair reassured the board they are in contact with those candidates they feel would best fit the profile of the person the board and Gov. Scott would like to fill the seat, soon to be vacated by Eric Smith.

"It's not a question of receiving a pile of paper," said state board member John Padget. "It's a question of reaching the right people."

After their presentation, Adams and Ray said that the firm has collected about 200 names of potential candidates, 30 of whom Adams or Ray have spoken with directly. But Adams said they expect that there are "probably about a dozen max in the country," who can do the job of Florida's educational commissioner.

"This is a very challenging position and there are only a handful of people who are going to meet the expectations of the position," Ray said.

The Board of Education meets on June 1, at which time it hopes to interview several candidates. Smith, with the Department of Education since 2007, resigns his position June 10.