A Florida school district’s superintendent search raises community questions

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state.
Ajori Spencer chats with Ann Hembrook who is a finalist for the job of Pinellas Schools Superintendent as her husband Steve Hembrook watches on during a meet and greet at Pinellas County School District headquarters on Wednesday, May 11, 2022 in Largo.
Ajori Spencer chats with Ann Hembrook who is a finalist for the job of Pinellas Schools Superintendent as her husband Steve Hembrook watches on during a meet and greet at Pinellas County School District headquarters on Wednesday, May 11, 2022 in Largo. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]
Published May 13, 2022

The big story: When Mike Grego announced he would retire as Pinellas County school superintendent at the end of June, School Board members knew one thing: They did not want a repeat of the turmoil that ensued after the departure of its last long-time chief executive, Howard Hinesley.

Board chairperson Eileen Long spoke of the need for a smooth transition to a strong, stable leader who could continue the district’s progress. The board quickly launched a search for a successor.

Some residents argued the search should wait until after the fall, when four board seats are up for election. A shift in membership could result in a different choice, as the Alachua County School Board recently demonstrated.

The board forged ahead. That decision elicited a new set of concerns.

Local support for an internal candidate quickly surfaced, leading some to wonder why the board should spend thousands of dollars looking for someone it already had. But the idea of quick appointment from within generated other questions about whether someone outside might be better, if the board would look.

The board’s most veteran member, Carol Cook, suggested that going through the process would legitimize the person chosen. So the search continued. One week after the application deadline passed, the board needed less than an hour to pick three finalists.

One of them will get the job next week. Read about them here.

Hot topics

Math textbooks: In the review of Florida’s math textbooks for adoption, three of 125 reviewers found books poorly aligned with state rules relating to “prohibited content.” Each had connections to conservative organizations. • The conservative Florida Citizens Alliance has led the charge for the removal of what it and others consider ‘woke’ content from school materials, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

Turnaround schools: Warrington Middle School in Escambia County, which has received a D or F state grade for eight straight years, will become a charter school if it does not improve to C or better, WEAR reports.

Book challenges: Authors of four books a group wanted removed from Polk County schools discuss their views on such attempts, the Ledger reports.

Graduation day: The principal of Pine View School in Sarasota has warned senior class president Zander Moricz that he will cut off the microphone if the teen’s graduation speech veers into comments about LGBTQ activism, the Herald-Tribune reports. (Subscription only) • Moricz, a plaintiff in the lawsuit challenging Florida’s new “parental rights” law, has said the school is trying to censor him, WUSF reports. • For the first time in its history, the top three graduates at Hendry County’s Clewiston High School are Black students, WINK reports.

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Teacher pay: Leon County teachers and the school district reached a tentative contract agreement on salary increases a day after the State Board of Education chastised the district and seven others for not yet having distributed state funds for raises, WFSU reports.

Other school news

A school developer plans to build a new private school in Brooksville. The group is pitching the concept as an “IMG North,” the Suncoast News reports. Community reaction to the proposal was mixed.

The Jefferson County school district is ramping up to take back control from a charter operator. Five former district teachers of the year have joined the staff so far, WTXL reports.

The principal of a Gadsden County school was video recorded holding a student on the ground with his knee. The school district is investigating, WCTV reports.

The Jackson County school district will place seven cameras on each of its school buses. The administration will be able to watch live action on the buses if needed, WJHG reports.

From the court docket ... A Duval County parent said she will sue her daughter’s middle school principal and the school district over alleged racial discrimination, WJXT reports.

Don’t miss a story. Here’s the link to yesterday’s roundup.

Before you go ... If only the fans could make a difference.

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