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Support gathers for Hillsborough superintendent hopefuls

Here is a taste of what is circulating as the School Board gets closer to naming a leader.
Hillsborough County Commissioner Les Miller hosted a meeting at his home to discuss the school district's superintendent search. [Times (2017)]
Hillsborough County Commissioner Les Miller hosted a meeting at his home to discuss the school district's superintendent search. [Times (2017)]
Published Jan. 8
Updated Jan. 8

TAMPA — Days before Harrison Peters had his name added to the list of superintendent semifinalists, a group of political officials put their thoughts about the chief of schools on paper.

“Mr. Peters’ intimate knowledge of the district equips him with the necessary tools to lead on day one,” says a letter to the School Board, dated Jan. 6 and signed by state Sen. Darryl Rouson, Rep. Diane Hart, Rep. Wengay Newton, County Commission Chair Les Miller and Tampa City Council member Orlando Gudes.

The letter notes that, if chosen, Peters would be the district’s first ever superintendent of color.

“Harrison’s lived experience as a black man would bring a set of unique insights and experiences that inform and direct his actions as a leader,” the letter says.

Miller said he hosted the meeting of African American officials at his home. “We have gotten together before, and we got together again,” he said, taken aback at first when asked for details about the meeting.

They invited Peters and questioned him on his views, Miller said. They came away satisfied and wrote the letter together, he said.

It’s not the only correspondence that is circulating in advance of a Jan. 16 interview day for the eight semifinalists.

As the Tampa Bay Times reported, a group from the Hillsborough Branch NAACP took issue with efforts taken on behalf of Addison Davis, an applicant who is now superintendent in Clay County. They provided the board with this four-page chapter of an American Civil Liberties Union report on student discipline, singling out Clay County for criticism.

Board member Steve Cona rebuked the group during the meeting and, on Wednesday, emailed four pages about Hillsborough’s student discipline record — taken from the same report — to the Times.

Like the Clay chapter, the Hillsborough material contains statistics that reflect badly on the district.

There is also evidence in the application packets, which were posted on this story, that serious candidates are gathering support. Letters of recommendation, including this one from Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister, urge the board to give the top job to deputy superintendent Chris Farkas.

Like Peters, Farkas was added to the semifinalist list after the board’s heated debate.

The Times will continue to post material about the eight semifinalists. If you run across something interesting, feel free to forward it to


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  2. The Voluntary Prekindergarten room is one feature of the new Bardmoor Branch of the YMCA of Greater St. Petersburg. The location also includes a child-care center and Preschool Academy.
  3. FILE - In this Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018, file photo, students hold their hands in the air as they are evacuated by police from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., after a shooter opened fire on the campus. School districts continue to improve their security plans in the aftermath. (Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP, File)
  4. Clay County Schools Superintendent Addison Davis (wearing a pink tie), center, takes photos with the  Hillsborough County Public Schools board members after being voted unaminous as the new incoming superintendent in Tampa, Florida on Tuesday, January 21, 2020.
  5. University of Florida students walk through Turlington Plaza in between classes on Thursday afternoon, February 13, 2020, in Gainesville, Fla.
  6. Chikara Parks, right, along with her children in front of their home in St. Petersburg. In the back is Kamijah Laswon, 14. In front of Kamijah is her sister Tanijah Clark, 12. Their brothers are 7-year-old Tai'jon Carter, left, and Dai'quan Carbart, 9. The four children used to attend Pinellas public schools. Now they are in private schools, using Florida's tax credit scholarship program. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]
  7. Florida Board of Education member Michael Olenick speaks during a July 17, 2019, board meeting in Polk County. [The Florida Channel]
  8. A new house under construction in Waterset on Big Bend Road in Hillsborough County's Apollo Beach area. Developed by Newland Communities, which also developed Fishhawk Ranch  in Hillsborough, Waterset has had more housing starts in the past year than any other new-home community in the Tampa Bay area. [SUSAN TAYLOR MARTIN | Times]
  9. Janiyah, left, and Stephanie Davis of Philadelphia, stand as they are recognized by President Donald Trump during his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
  10. School buses line the parking lot of the Hernando County Schools Transportation Center earlier this month. Detailed bus route information is expected to be available July 31, and can be found on the district website, (select "District," then "Transportation". [CHARLIE KAIJO   |   Times]
  11. Florida lawmakers are considering changes to the state grant that helps students who attend private colleges and universities such as Eckerd College, whose 2005 commencement is shown here.
  12. Students from Lakewood Elementary School dismiss for the day in St. Petersburg, Monday, February 10, 2020.