Kevin Hendrick, a hometown educator who honed his leadership skills as a principal of Northeast High and later as a top administrator during the pandemic, is the new superintendent of Pinellas County Schools.
The School Board approved Hendrick’s appointment unanimously on Tuesday after a national search assisted by the Florida School Boards Association.
“I am so excited to be doing this, and to be doing it here in Pinellas County,” Hendrick said after the vote, calling the appointment “a lifelong dream.”
Hendrick, 46, replaces Mike Grego, who is retiring this summer after a decade on the job.
A graduate of Largo High School, Hendrick holds two master’s degrees and has worked for the district for nearly all of his career.
Now Pinellas’ chief academic officer, he has been a high school math and social studies teacher, assistant principal, athletic coordinator and the district’s director of high school education.
As the principal of Northeast off and on between 2008 and 2017, he improved the school’s grade from a D to as high as an A and established new career academies. He was the district’s entry in the statewide Principal of the Year program, and in 2017 he was selected as a statewide finalist.
He was promoted to associate director for teaching and learning in 2017. In that role, he led teams that expanded early childhood education; increased the high school graduation rate to 92 percent, leading the Tampa Bay area; expanded gifted education programs; and implemented a technology system that provides each student with internet connectivity.
In a round of interviews for the job, Hendrick said his work during the pandemic tested his leadership and gave him the confidence that he was ready to be superintendent. Despite opposition in the teaching ranks, Hendrick found ways for instruction to happen simultaneously, serving both remote and in-school students. When early assessments showed students had lost ground in math, Pinellas moved quickly to arrange before- and after-school tutoring and assign more practice time through computer games.
The search for Grego’s successor attracted 19 applicants. When the field was narrowed to three, Hendrick found himself competing against two candidates with extensive experience in Florida: Ann Hembrook, who has worked in Orange and Marion counties, and Michael J. Ramirez, who spent most of his career in Broward County.
Only one of the three, Hembrook, holds a doctoral degree, which was listed as a preferred qualification for the job.
But the board and community also made it clear that they valued integrity, an appreciation for diversity, and the ability to generate enthusiasm for the district’s accomplishments.
In their discussion leading up to the vote, board members said Hembrook and Ramirez made strong impressions, and both appear ready to lead.
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Board member Nicole Carr touched on a comment Hendrick made during his board interview. He said employees typically do not leave a job, but a situation, “which really demonstrated how important climate, culture and strong leadership is to the success of any school or school district,” Carr said.
Board member Laura Hine cited comments the board received from the public. An employee said Hendrick’s leadership style was “consistent, fair, respectful and inspiring.”
In an entry plan that he submitted last week, Hendrick wrote that, if selected, he will review data and meet with the School Board, staff and community through the end of June to learn their expectations. He will launch “listen and learn” sessions in July and identify priorities in August.
His goals include updating the district’s strategic plan, improving family engagement and public trust, and enhancing the district’s communication strategies.
While cautious about social media because of what he described last week as “negativity,” Hendrick said that as superintendent he would create a social media presence.