TAMPA — A committee of educators, former educators and community leaders from three counties will form a transition team to help Addison Davis, the new superintendent of Hillsborough County Schools, make key decisions in running the nation’s seventh-largest school district.
Together they will investigate everything from the Achievement Schools initiative for chronically low-performing schools to Hillsborough’s extensive menu of choice and magnet programs. They will consider student test scores, school morale, efficiency and lack of efficiency as they seek to help a new superintendent — the first outsider hired in a half-century — establish priorities and effect change.
“Each person has been strategically identified because of their experience and success with making deliberate, instructional and operational decisions leading to improved outcomes for learners,” Davis wrote in a letter Wednesday to all district employees.
The 12 members of his transition team will meet with school board members and staff while also assessing programs, teaching materials, school resources and practices.
A starting point will be Accelerate Hillsborough, a lengthy plan of action that Davis submitted in January, when he was competing in a nationwide search to replace retiring Superintendent Jeff Eakins.
But much has changed since January, including Davis’ timetable. Since his first official day on the job, March 23, the district and its more than 220,000 students have been engaged in home-based learning because of the health threat from COVID-19.
To get his transition plan back on track, Davis enlisted educators who worked with him during his four-year run as superintendent in Clay County and, before that, in Duval County.
In this group are Kim Bays, Clay’s former chief of elementary education; Tracolya Clinch, principal of Andrew Jackson High School in Duval; Terry Connor, who served as Davis’ chief academic officer in Clay; and Clay assistant superintendents Michael Kemp and Micheal McAuley. The five will be hired on a contract basis, in jobs that will run through June 30, said district spokeswoman Tanya Arja.
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From Hillsborough, Davis included people who are actively involved in the district — Alliance for Public Schools co-founder Melissa Erickson and teachers union president Rob Kriete — and people who retired after many years of service, some migrating to the nonprofit sector: Former School Board member and career educator Doretha Edgecomb; retired administrator Gwen Luney; retired area leadership director Valerie Orihuela; retired deputy superintendents Ken Otero and Cathy Valdes.
Don’t expect the exercise to rubber-stamp practices that the district has maintained for decades, said Kriete, the union leader.
“My sense is that Mr. Davis doesn’t do anything in a superficial manner,” said Kriete. “This will be real work and honest feedback about what we see and how that will affect students in the schools. I don’t think there will be any facade.”
Kriete said he looks forward to being able to represent the interests of teachers and support staff. “He’s bringing us in as thought partners,” he said. “And that has not traditionally been done.”
Davis plans to use the work of the transition team to prepare a follow-up action plan, Arja said.