TAMPA — A day or so after a grueling debate over whether he should be considered for the job of Hillsborough County Schools Superintendent, Chris Farkas has withdrawn his name from consideration.
He wrote this in an email to the school board, which was not released to the public until the Tampa Bay Times learned about it on School Board Chairwoman Melissa Snively’s Facebook page:
Honorable Board Members,
Thank you for your consideration of my application for the position of Superintendent of Hillsborough County Public Schools. I am grateful to have been listed with the eight semi finalists for this most important position, but after very careful consideration of factors both personal and professional, I wish to respectfully withdraw my application.
Nothing is more important than the success of the more than 200,000 students in our school district and even though I no longer wish to be considered for the job of Superintendent, I pledge to continue to serve the district to the very best of my ability to help achieve that success.
I truly appreciate your support and your thoughtful decisions as you make the difficult and critical choice as to who will lead this great school district.
Farkas, the deputy superintendent whose responsibilities include transportation, maintenance and new school construction, had been tied for 10th place when board members ranked 13 candidates in a special meeting on Tuesday.
The search firm that is helping them replace the retiring Jeff Eakins wanted to continue on with only the top six applicants.
But board member Tamara Shamburger wanted to add Chief of Schools Harrison Peters, who came in eighth. When that happened, member Cindy Stuart said it only made sense to include Farkas as well.
In the end, the vote to include the two was 4-3. Support for the measure came from Stuart, Shamburger, Karen Perez and Lynn Gray, who changed her position in the midst of the debate.
Voting against including the two were Snively, Stacy Hahn and Steve Cona. Hahn and Cona stated adamantly that they wanted an outside superintendent, as those on the inside had not proven their effectiveness. Snively said she wanted to adhere to the consultant’s ranking system.
News of Farkas’s withdrawal was tightly held until Snively revealed it in a comment on her Facebook page on Wednesday afternoon.
An educator since 1996, Farkas joined the Hillsborough district in 1999 and worked his way up from teacher to principal to area director and, ultimately, deputy superintendent over operations.
He has weathered some of the district’s biggest challenges in that job, including a dilapidated fleet of school buses and the need to ask voters for a sales tax referendum. About half the money collected in the new tax is being spent to upgrade failing school air conditioners.
Farkas was not available for comment Thursday. His administrative secretary, Kathryn Walker, said in an email that he was out of town. She added, “I can’t express totally what a fantastic leader he has been in the Operations division.”
Snively, similarly, praised Farkas’s work in school security, maintenance and capital projects. But the two have differed on some issues concerning schools in her electoral district. FishHawk area students were greatly impacted by cutbacks to the school busing system. And the same community is now up in arms over planned rezoning changes.
Although Snively gave Farkas only two points out of a possible 12 in Tuesday’s ranking, she said, “moving forward, I would hope that we can work professional with each other. He undstands that it is not personal, this is business. I have a deep resepect for what he does day to day."