LARGO — Skipping past a semifinalist round, the Pinellas County School Board on Wednesday picked three of 19 applicants to interview for its looming superintendent vacancy.
Board members chose Pinellas chief academic officer Kevin Hendrick, Denver Public Schools deputy superintendent Michael Ramirez and Marion County schools area superintendent Ann Hembrook as finalists to replace Mike Grego, who is retiring after a decade in the post.
Hendrick was a unanimous pick during the board’s initial discussion. Ramirez and Hembrook each got five initial votes, and then also received full support for additional consideration.
Board members have said they want to see continuity and consistency moving ahead from Grego’s tenure. But they also indicated they want to hear from the top hopefuls for the job, and not automatically take the internal candidate.
“He’s not guaranteed anything,” board vice chairperson Lisa Cane said of Hendrick. “We’ll see from here what his vision is. ... We don’t know him in a superintendent role.”
The board members said they also were impressed with the credentials of Hembrook, an elementary school teacher with administrative experience in Clark County (Las Vegas), Nev., and Orange County, Fla., before moving to Ocala, and Ramirez, a social studies teacher who had administrative experience in Broward County before moving to Denver.
Ramirez was a finalist for the recent superintendent opening in Polk County, the Ledger reported.
“We got several excellent applicants,” board chairperson Eileen Long said. “I feel very positive that we will come to the right decision.”
Several board members said they wanted to focus on aspirants who have worked in districts of similar size to Pinellas, which enrolls just over 95,000 students, and who had not bounced from job to job.
“Long-term experience would be a priority for me,” board member Caprice Edmond said.
Even though the board moved directly to finalists, it decided to continue the semifinalist process of asking each candidate to respond to several questions relating to the district’s strategic plan in writing and via video.
“This is not an elimination round, just further information gathering before they come in,” board member Nicole Carr said.
The finalists will be invited to visit the district on May 11-12, to tour the community and interview with the board. Hendrick will be treated the same as the external candidates, despite having worked in the district administration for several years.
The School Board is scheduled to make its final decision on May 17. Afterward, it will negotiate a contract with the selected candidate.
Board members agreed the pay range will be $275,000 to $305,000 annually, and that the contract will include benefits including a monthly car allowance, contribution to a tax-sheltered retirement plan and moving expenses.
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Some residents have said the board should postpone picking a new superintendent until after the fall elections, because a majority of seats are on the ballot. Board members have rejected that idea, saying they want to have a smooth transition to the next district leader, with Grego planning to leave at the end of June.
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