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District: Tell us what you want in a Hillsborough schools superintendent

An online poll and four public meetings can help establish priorities
Hillsborough County schools superintendent Jeff Eakins explains the district's stance on its turnaround plan implementation to the Florida Board of Education on Jan. 17, 2018. [The Florida Channel]
Hillsborough County schools superintendent Jeff Eakins explains the district's stance on its turnaround plan implementation to the Florida Board of Education on Jan. 17, 2018. [The Florida Channel]
Published Sep. 9

TAMPA — Much is expected from public school superintendents.

They need to know how to teach children of all walks of life and manage budgets of millions — in this case, billions — of dollars.

It helps to have a winning personality and a sense of mission that can be embraced by hundreds of thousands of parents and employees. Hiring such a person for Hillsborough County will not be easy.

So the first step is to establish priorities, which is why the district and its search firm — Ray and Associates — are hoping for strong participation in an online survey.

Do people want a decision maker, or someone who appreciates Hillsborough’s vast ethnic and cultural diversity? How important is a doctoral degree, or the ability to pitching the schools’ needs to legislators?

These are among the 22 qualities listed in the survey, and the participants can choose only 10.

The document covers hot topics including classroom discipline, students with disabilities, and the achievement gaps that favor children of privilege. There are several questions about the importance of working with labor groups, including the teachers’ union.

To take the survey, go to the school district website at and look for the section marked “Superintendent Search.” The questions are available in Spanish, Haitian Creole, Chinese, Arabic and Hindi in addition to English.

As of early this week, 808 people had answered in English and 13 in Spanish. It will remain live until 8 a.m. on Sept. 22.

“The school district and the superintendent touch everyone in the county,” said school board attorney Jim Porter. “That’s partly because the scale of our operation is so large. Our bus fleet is bigger than Hartline. Because of the size of the district and the importance of education, the superintendent is a position that matters. Taking the survey only takes a few minutes, and it impacts everybody and the community should have a voice.”

In addition to the survey, Ray is leading four public meetings in the coming week. All four begin at 6:30 and will be held at Bloomingdale and Jefferson high schools on Tuesday, Sept. 17; Gaither High School on Wednesday, Sept. 18; and Middleton High School on Thursday, Sept. 19. Those same days, there will be smaller meetings with target groups that include the teachers’ union, the association of school administrators, the NAACP and religious organizations.

On Oct 2 at a specially called School Board meeting, Ray and Associates will present the results of these surveys and sessions to the school board, who will then finalize the job description and advertisement.

Jeff Eakins, a longtime school district employee who has held the job since 2015, earns $225,000. But the expectation is that his replacement will earn roughly $300,000. “It could be less or it could be more,” Porter said. “That part will be negotiated with the final candidate.”



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