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51 people applied to lead Hillsborough schools. What we know so far.

Our running list of the candidates to replace superintendent Jeff Eakins includes top educators with a wide range of experience.
Hillsborough county parents can check the district's website for their child's bus route and their school's bus schedule. Visit sdhc.k12.fl.us, click the link under "Preparing for Back to School," then find the links for "Bus Schedule" and "Bus Availability." For more information, call (813) 982-5500. [SKIP O'ROURKE  |   Times]
Hillsborough county parents can check the district's website for their child's bus route and their school's bus schedule. Visit sdhc.k12.fl.us, click the link under "Preparing for Back to School," then find the links for "Bus Schedule" and "Bus Availability." For more information, call (813) 982-5500. [SKIP O'ROURKE | Times]
Published Dec. 13, 2019
Updated Dec. 19, 2019

Hillsborough County school officials, along with their search consultant, have not yet released any background information about the 51 candidates to replace outgoing superintendent Jeff Eakins. The background materials are public record, and a request from the Times is pending.

In the meantime, this is what we know so far based on media reports and other information available on the internet. The list will be updated as more information becomes available:

* Wayne Alexander, former superintendent of Hernando County schools. He left the district in 2009, when School Board members found he had secretly applied for jobs elsewhere and pushed him out of his contract early. About the same time, Hernando’s teachers union voiced concerns about his proposed budget cuts and supposed fostering of nepotism. Currently an assistant principal in Bridgeport, Conn., Alexander has applied for several Florida school district and state-level administrative posts since his parting with the Hernando district.

* Jeffrey Alstadt, district administrator of the Randall Consolidated school district in Wisconsin since July. Says the Kenosha News, Alstadt “started his career in education as an eighth-grade English teacher for the Beach Park School District, where he was also a basketball and volleyball coach. In addition to being the district administrator for the Crescent-Iroquois School District, Alstadt also served as an assistant principal for Chicago Public Schools.”

James Baumann is an author and a speaker. He is CEO and founder of an educational business venture called EdVocal.com. He worked in the past as CEO of Outward Bound USA, ran an outdoor recreation products company and launched a business that enabled college students to rent textbooks.

* Erik Bentzel, former superintendent of Northern Lebanon School District in Pennsylvania. Recently was a candidate for Volusia County superintendent. Bentzel resigned amid tense relations with his school board in 2018. He and the board hammered out an agreement not to criticize one another. But, when applying for a job in another Pennsylvania school district, he accused the board of weighing him down with do-do lists.

Patrick Brimstein, former Eastport-South Manor schools superintendent in Long Island, put on administrative leave in April over undisclosed concerns. Before that he was principal of the Peru Central School District in New York and before that he was a high school principal. He served in the U.S. Air Force from 1985 to 1990.

Jonathon Clontz ran the state lottery systems in Oregon and Wyoming. Before that he was Chief Operating Officer for the Washington State Department of Veteran Affairs.

Latanya Collins had a career in special education in New York City that was disrupted by a lawsuit in 2015, in which she alleged she experienced retaliation for defending students and staff who had experienced discrimination.

* Alexa Cunningham, superintendent of Salt Lake City schools since 2016. Was recently named a finalist for superintendent of Peoria, Ariz., schools. From the biography in that search, Cunningham “served as the Superintendent of Tolleson Union High School District from 2011-2016 and Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services in Agua Fria Union High School District from 2006-2011. Dr. Cunningham worked in the Peoria Unified School District from 1989-2006 as a teacher, assistant principal and principal.”

* Addison Davis, superintendent, Clay County Schools, is currently seeking reelection against the educator he ousted from the post in 2016. From his school district biography: “Before arriving in Clay County, Addison Davis served as the Chief of Schools for Duval County Public School System. He worked for Duval County Schools for 18 years, starting as a teacher, moving to an Assistant Principal, Principal, Executive Director of Turnaround, Middle School Cluster Chief, and Region Superintendent. He directed the work of Principal Supervisors, Principals, Assistant Principals, Leadership Development, School Improvement, School Choice and Magnet, Extended Learning, School Climate and Culture, School Police, Operations and Facilities, and Student Discipline.”

From his campaign website: “Since taking office as Superintendent, the Clay County School District has seen dramatic improvements across all performance metrics. In June of 2018, Clay County earned an “A” district grade from the Florida Department of Education. Overall, Clay County now ranks 8th in state!”

James Drake, former district area instructional leader for Thornton Township School District 205 near Chicago.

Stephanie Elizalde, chief of school leadership for the Dallas (Texas) Independent School District since 2015. Story on her plan to improve F-rated schools, from the Dallas Observer.

Christopher Farkas, deputy superintendent of operations, Hillsborough County Public Schools. Farkas worked his way up from high school social studies teacher to principal to area superintendent before being placed in charge of facilities, including transportation and new school construction. In that job, Farkas has faced down some of the most controversial issues in the district including transportation cutbacks, air conditioning breakdowns, and tightly held information about a project to test lead in school drinking water. He was also at the forefront when supporters campaigned for passage of the new half-cent sales tax for school facilities.

* Timothy Gadson, assistant superintendent-high schools for the Anoka-Hennepin Schools in Minnesota. He had been the sole finalist for Henry County (Ga.) schools superintendent in 2017, but had the offer withdrawn. Was an associate superintendent for Atlanta Public Schools 2014-16. He has sued the Henry County school district for job discrimination.

* Aaron Geter Jr., superintendent of Wilkinson County (Ga.) schools. Also a celebrated basketball coach and former Mercer University star player. Reprimanded over ethics by the state in 2015. Among the developments, according to the Macon Telegraph: “Geter received a written reprimand for failing to report an alleged sexual relationship between a student and a volunteer Wilkinson County basketball coach who also worked in the school cafeteria.”

Andrei Ghelman, Coordinator, Secondary Programs for the Collier County Public Schools. Until recently, he was director of school transformation for the Lee County schools. He is also an adjunct education professor at Florida Gulf Coast University.

Leonard “Lenny” Giammatteo, professor of human performance and Sport Studies, Southeastern University in Lakeland. Between 2014 and 2016, he was coordinator of that school’s MBA/Sport Management program. His K-12 experience includes stunts at the Polk County Public Schools between 1990 and 2003.

* Jerry Gibson. Superintendent of the Marshall Independent School District in Marshall, Texas, a job he has held since 2016. Before Marshall, he was superintendent in the Coldspring-Oakhurst Consolidated Independent School District, also in Texas.

Ryan Haczynski is a Theory of Knowledge instructor in the International Baccalaureate program at Strawberry Crest High School. He also is a blogger under the name Teacher Voice. Haczynski is a two-time Teacher of the Year at his school who worked for the district as a new teacher mentor from 2015-16. Before that he taught math, language arts and social studies, all at the high school level. On his resume, he listed the president and executive director of the teachers’ union as two of his references.

* Don Haddad, superintendent, St. Vrain Valley Schools, Longmont, Colo. According to the Denver Post, Haddad began his career at St. Vrain Valley as a high school principal and was recognized with a professional award in 2013 after the district won a $17 federal Race to the Top grant.

* Kenneth Hurst, superintendent of schools in Othella, Washington, recently applied for the superintendent position in Volusia County and made to the top seven semi-finalists. Describing his accomplishments in Othella, Hurst listed a 45 percent increase in his district’s fund balance, a 12 point increase in the high school graduation rate and a dramatic improvement in kindergarten readiness.

John (Randy) Johnson. Regional Instructional Superintendent in the Denver Public Schools. Once sought position as superintendent of Aurora, Colo. schools. Johnson joined the Denver district in 2008 as a high school principal.

Saundra Johnson Austin, president and CEO at Charis Consulting Group LLC, which is based in Pinellas County. Austin has consulted extensively and throughout the country.

Mark Kirkemier, past official in the Alabama Department of Education, sought to become state superintendent in 2016 after serving as interim deputy state superintendent for half a year.

* Eric Knuth, superintendent of Altmar-Parish-Williamstown schools in New York since 2017. Faced a Change.org community petition to have him removed because of the School Board was going to pay his expenses in pursuing a doctoral degree. But his board renewed his contract anyway in June.

* Michael Kuzniewski, superintendent of Sandridge School District 172 in Illinois. Chicago Tribune story about AP student participation from 2016 included him while superintendent of Morton (Ill.) school district.

Adam Lane, principal of Haines City High School in Polk County. He wrote this on Linked-In:

“I have worked in K-12 public education since 1995, twelve of these years at the high school level, eight years at the middle school level and one year at the elementary level. In that time I have held various positions as teacher, department head, athletic coach, athletic trainer, assistant principal and principal.As principal at Haines City High School and IB East, I serve a school with 2,600 students, 210 staff members and 5 assistant principals. The school includes an International Baccalaureate Program, a Junior Reserve Officer Training Core, The Environmental Agriculture & Technology Academy, The Academy of Media Production, The Academy of Children’s Educational Studies, The Visual Arts Academy and The Performing Arts Academy. During my time as an assistant principal at Largo High School, I have served as an International Baccalaureate Coordinator, Instructional Coordinator, Behavior/Support Coordinator, Athletic Director and Activities Coordinator.”

* Crystal Leroy, superintendent of the Joseph Sears School in Illinois. She brings a business background. According to the school website, Leroy “spent more than a decade working in corporate and educational finance before joining the district in 2012.”

Peter Licata, Palm Beach County regional superintendent, was a finalist for Volusia County superintendent earlier this year. In the Palm Beach district, Licata has served as Assistant Superintendent of Choice and Innovation, Director of Curriculum, Charter Schools, Alternative Education, Accountability, Choice Programs, International Baccalaureate Programs, and Career and Technical Education, according to the district’s posted biography. Before all that, he was principal of Olympic Heights High School and Boca Raton Community Middle School. He is also an adjunct professor at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Florida, where he teaches courses preparing future school administrators.

* Jay Marino, former superintendent, Antioch Elementary District 34, Antioch, Ill. Recently left the district under what was described as a “mutual separation agreement.

Lawrence Martin is what is known as a “non-traditional” candidate. His background is in the military, not public education. Here is an exerpt from his biography from the Tampa Bay Defense Alliance:

"Major General (retired) Lawrence M. Martin, Jr served his country on active duty for over 32 years before returning to Tampa with his wife, Julia, in 2017. His family first came to Tampa in 2008 when he served as the wing commander at MacDill Air Force Base. He is a command pilot with over 3,700 hours in the C-130E/H/J, KC-135R/T, E-8, UV-18B and C-37A aircraft, served in Southwest Asia, taught history at the United States Air Force Academy and held leadership assignments at Air Mobility Command, U.S. Pacific Command, U.S. Transportation Command and Headquarters, United States Air Force, Washington, D.C.

“Prior to his military retirement, he served as the Assistant Deputy Under Secretary of the Air Force, where he oversaw 226 Washington DC based employees managing Air Force international matters with US government, industry partners and over 100 worldwide air forces. He is a Senior Consultant for Two Blue Aces Consulting, specializing in assisting organizations with strategic planning, process improvement, leadership development, building alliances, international relations and crisis management. General Martin serves as the volunteer President and Chief Executive Officer, Medal of Honor Convention Tampa Bay 2019.”

Terrence Martin is a former principal of Newton County Schools in Georgia. Before that, he was area/associate superintendent in the Rockdale County Public Schools, also in Georgia, from 2014-2016.

* James McIntyre, director of the Center for Educational Leadership and assistant professor of practice, University of Tennessee. Previously was superintendent of Knox County Schools, Knoxville, Tenn. He resigned in 2016, not long after agreeing to a two year contract extension to the job he had held since 2008. At the time, he said that “the current political environment has become increasingly dysfunctional. At times overtly antagonistic, and seemingly untenable. At recent months the focus of the conversation has all too often become about me, or the school board or other elected officials, rather than around the effective education of our children.” In 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2014, the state PTA named him “Tennessee Outstanding Superintendent of the Year.”

* Earl Metzler, superintendent, Timberlane Regional and Hampstead school districts, New Hampshire. Metzler recently sued his current School Board over pay issues. “While the lawsuit doesn’t specify a dollar amount,” the Union Leader reports, “school officials have estimated that Metzler would likely be seeking at least an additional $50,000 on top of the more than $100,000 that he has received in payouts for compensatory time since 2015. Metzler earns $175,882 a year.”

Robert Miller has been a private educational consultant since 2013. His last school-based job was as principal of Haines Middle School in St. Charles, Il., from 2011-2013.

Lori Mueller: District Administrator/Supervisor, School District of Baraboo, Wisconsin. Mueller has a doctorate in educational leadership. She has worked for several school districts in Wisconsin, since starting her career in 1995 as a middle school French and health teacher.

Jennifer Pellegrine, senior director of elementary learning, Making Waves Academy, a charter school in Richmond, Calif. Her last public school experience was as a principal in the Newark Public Schools between 2012 and 2017. Before that, she was director of data and assessment at a charter school in Newark.

Harrison Peters, chief of schools, Hillsborough County Public Schools. Worked previously in Chicago and elsewhere, hired in 2016 during one of Eakins’ reorganizations. Peters, who served in the Navy after a childhood spent in Houston and Pensacola, was recruited by longtime administrator Tricia McManus, who announced recently that she will leave at the end of the school year. Like McManus, he has a strong focus on equity in education.

Joram Rejouis, assistant superintendent of programs and grants, Essex Regional Educational Services Commission, Fairfield, N.J. Educated at Rutgers University, he has spent his entire career in New Jersey.

Alexandra Robinson, former director of pupil transportation, New York City Department of Education. Recently fired from the post after there were massive problems with the school bus GPS system. As reported by the New York Post, those problems included “the system showing school buses off the coast of Africa and the fact that it depended on drivers turning the GPS on — and most never did.”

* Corwin Robinson, administrator, Project Believe, St. Tammany Parish Public Schools, Mandeville, La. He describes himself, in Linked-In, as a retired U.S. Army Colonel who others consider “an inspirational and motivated leader.” He led the Lake Schools, a small district in Tennessee, for a year and five months. News reports said he was suspended with pay in early 2014. On the Linked-in profile, Robinson included, in his accomplishments, “having a school district taken off the ‘failing school district’ list by focusing on student achievement and teacher support and development.”

* Arsenio Romero, superintendent, Deming Public Schools, Deming, New Mexico. Earlier this year, the Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents (ALAS) named Romero their Superintendent of the Year. Like others on this list, Romero applied for the superintendent’s position in Volusia County. According to the materials he provided to Volusia, Romero began his career as a 7th grade science and language arts teacher at a middle school in Phoenix. He was educated, and spent nearly all of his career, in New Mexico.

* Corey Seymour works as an area senior director for the Portland, Oregon public school system, working in the office of school performance. He served previously as superintendent of the Santa Gertrudis Independent School District in Kingsville, Texas. He resigned in 2018. At the time, he was seeking opportunities in larger school districts. “Santa Gertrudis has a little over 800 kids, so coming from (there) and going to Portland Public is a big difference,” he told the Kingsville Record.

George Thomas is deputy superintendent and chief turnaround officer for the Georgia State Board of Education. He arrived in Georgia in 2017, after serving five years as chief support officer for the University of Virginia Darden/Curry Partnership for Leaders in Education.

Joel Thornton is a partner at P33 Adventures, LLC. We are not sure what that is, but we believe it is a travel company. According to his resume, he is an attorney.

* Luis Valentino, chief academic officer, Portland Public Schools, Portland, Ore., same district as Corey Seymour. Valentin served in 2015 as superintendent of schools in Albuquerque, but resigned after just two months on the job. He weathered several controversies during his short time in the superintendent position. Among them: He hired a deputy superintendent, without a full background check, who was awaiting trial on charges of sex abuse on a child. The deputy superintendent resigned. He was later found not guilty.

* Alberto Vazquez Matos, deputy superintendent Hartford Public Schools, Hartford, Conn. Before joining Hillsborough in 2015, Vazquez was superintendent of the Diocese of St. Petersburg Catholic schools. He and Eakins got to know each other when Eakins was in charge of federal funding and had to make sure private and parochial schools received their fair share of money. As Eakins’ second in command, Vazquez was the point person during the budget crisis that the new administration inherited. He spent much of his tenure overseeing dramatic spending cuts.

Gloria Waite, principal of Hillsborough’s Clair Mel Elementary. A Key West native and a district employee since 2004, Waite accepted her current position at Clair Mel in 2017 after working two years as a principal coach. Schools she led before that as principal include Mabry and West Tampa Elementary.

Arnita Walls is a human resources professional who last worked for the Luther Seminary in Minneapolis.

Fabby Williams, school support officer, Guilford County Schools, Greensboro, NC

Harold Yearwood. Originally from the islands of Trinidad and Tobago, Yearwood is assistant superintendent for academics and accountability at the Manor Independent School District in Texas. He began his career in 1990 in Lubbuck, Tx,

* David Yoshihara, assistant superintendent of finance & operations, North Clackamas Schools, Milwaukie, Ore. Yoshihara served for three years as superintendent of the Tamalpais Union High School District in California. He resigned abruptly from that job in 2018 without explanation.

* An asterisk symbol means the applicant is or has at one time been a schools superintendent.

(Editor’s note: A previous version of this story incorrectly reported that another educator named James Drake had applied to be Hillsborough County school superintendent.)

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. State Rep. Wyman Duggan, a Jacksonville Republican, presents his bill to create a "do not hire" list for any school employee who has been terminated, or resigned in lieu of termination, from employment as a result of sexual misconduct with a student. [The Florida Channel]
    The measure would apply to district, charter and private schools.
  2. Students grieve at Pine Trails Park, near the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., one month to the day since 17 students and staff were shot dead there, March 14, 2018. [SAUL MARTINEZ  |  New York Times]
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  3. Addison Davis, the superintendent of Clay County District Schools, was chosen Tuesday as the new Hillsborough County school superintendent. [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
    The School Board’s vote is unanimous for Davis, who calls himself “an accelerator.”
  4. Rep. Anthony Sabatini presents his bill to create school board term limits to the Florida House PreK-12 Innovation subcommittee on Jan. 21, 2020. [The Florida Channel]
    The idea would require a three-fifths vote in each chamber before it could appear on the ballot.
  5. Children participate in a sorting exercise during activities in a pre-K  class in Tampa.
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  6. A photo of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. sits on a pedestal at the Carter G. Woodson African American Museum on Sunday, Jan. 19, 2020  in St. Petersburg. Guests enjoyed music, spoken word, dance and musical performances and concluded with a candle light vigil and song.  [LUIS SANTANA   |   TIMES  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  7. From left, Don Haddad, Peter Licata and Addison Davis, all finalists for the job of Hillsborough County school superintendent, met Thursday with community members at Rampello K-8 School. The School Board will choose among the three on Tuesday. [MARLENE SOKOL  |  Times]
    Addison Davis, Don Haddad and Peter Licata outline their plans for the first 90 days.
  8. Check tampabay.com for the latest breaking news and updates. [Times]
    A man university police believe was target shooting near campus was not located, the university said.
  9. Former state senator John Legg has not ruled out a run for Pasco County schools superintendent. The district is the nation's largest to elect its chief executive.
    Short answer: Maybe.
  10. But the competition isn’t who many people expected it to be.
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