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More letters to School Board members about the superintendent search

Teachers, parents and others weigh in on the board’s difficult decision
Assisted by the Ray and Associates search firm, the Hillsborough County School Board is hiring a new superintendent.
Assisted by the Ray and Associates search firm, the Hillsborough County School Board is hiring a new superintendent. [ MARLENE SOKOL | Times staff ]
Published Jan. 13, 2020

As letters to School Board members are public records, the board members are required to turn them over upon request.

The school disrict communications office handled this request from us, to all seven board members. Some have complied more quickly than others. Here’s what was in our inbox today, arranged by topic:

Marching requirement for high school band students: (to Lynn Gray)

I'm writing you later than I had expected but here is the information that indicates that at least one (and likely far more than one) of our marching bands was mandatory this past football/marching band season.

I would like to talk about Harrison Peters' candidacy for the superintendent position with you if that's OK with you. If Jeff Gibson was being truthful with me, then Eakins completely delegated the decision regarding the continuance of mandatory marching bands to Mr. Peters. I was very honest when I met with Mr. Peters about how these rules were harmful and inequitable, how they harmed poor students uninterested in football/marching band the most, and how because there is a often a correlation between being a student of color and being poor that these rules are racist. For example, I had really hoped that he would understand and care that one of the many reasons that these rules are improper/illegal is that they reduce educational opportunities for band students at any Title I schools that have these unfair policies in place. And students of color can be affected at all schools, not just Title I schools. I know of at least one Black student at Steinbrenner who was defrauded out of his right to band education because this educationally unnecessary policy.

It's nearly impossible for me to envision Mr. Peters as a successful superintendent based on the information I have and other factors you're already aware of; however, if there's any chance at all that he could become our next superintendent then I think he should be given a chance to explain his inaction regarding his chance to correct our county's marching band inequities as well as fully commit to supporting the music department's switch to all schools having fully voluntary/extracurricular marching bands.

Please let me know if we can set a time for a phone call or have a brief meeting in person this week; in addition to discussing Mr. Peters' candidacy (including Fentrice Driskell's and others' support for him), I would also like to quickly talk about the meeting with Ted Hope and Marcos Murillo on the 31st. Thank you for considering.

Ed Bing

District’s record on Exceptional Student Education (to Lynn Gray):

I am a parent of two special needs children. The first priority in your superintendent search is finding a new superintendent who places high value on having a school district that excels in providing special education services to ourchildren. I was disheartened to hear that the district has discontinued the CABS program. Both my children are enrolled at the CABS program at Ballast Point Elementary and are thriving. I do not understand why such asuccessful program would be discontinued. On the contrary - it should be expanded to every school in the district. Please prioritize special education services and programs and find a superintendent who will do the same.

Sarah E. Kay

Hiring from outside, and someone with experience as a superintendent: (to Lynn Gray)

This morning I read with interest the article in the Tampa Bay Times about our current search for a new superintendent. I feel very strongly that it is time for a change. Sometimes it’s good to hire from within; sometimes not. This is the time for some help from outside the district. It would be in the best interest of our students and teachers to hire from outside the district, especially since those inside scored so low on the assessment used by the firm you hired to vet potential applicants.

And while I do agree that Mr. Peters "could make history, as the first superintendent of color in a majority-minority district," and I would be proud to be an employee of such a forward-thinking district, it is incumbent to pick the RIGHT person to do that. We just had a superintendent with no experience as a superintendent, and while I do appreciate the job Mr. Eakins has done under some adverse conditions, I think we might have fared better with someone who had been tested in that role previously. This is a very large district, and not really the place for someone to learn the job while on the job.

The best candidate for this district is someone who already has had experience as a superintendent.

Thank you for your time and consideration in this matter.

Michelle Hamlyn

7th Grade English Language Arts teacher

Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association representative

Over-testing, under-funding and a need for advocacy (to all board members)

Please choose our next superintendent with great care. Our students, teachers, and community need you to choose the very best person for our next superintendent. I urge you to choose a candidate from outside our district.

As a 20-plus year resident of Hillsborough County, I have seen many good and bad events in our schools. It is crucial that the new superintendent has prior experience running a large school district. You hired a consulting firm; trust their research.

The State of Florida continues to treat students as mere test scores. Over-testing and under-funding must stop. We need someone from outside Hillsborough County to guide us on a new path of advocacy. Fresh ideas and perspectives are an absolute must if we are to successfully move forward.

Please hire a superintendent from outside our district. Please choose a high-scoring candidate recommended from your “nationwide search”. I implore you to do right by our students.

Signed by

Jennifer Miller; mother, teacher

Christina Paulson; mother, pediatrician

Similar to the above letter, about hiring from outside: (to all board members)

I am writing to ask that you please choose our next superintendent with great care. Our students, teachers, and community need you to choose the very best person for our next superintendent. I urge you to choose a candidate from outside our district.

As a 16 year resident of Hillsborough County, I have seen many good and bad events in our schools. It is crucial that the new superintendent has prior experience running a large school district. You hired a consulting firm and I believe you should trust their research.

The State of Florida continues to treat students as mere test scores. Over-testing and under-funding must stop. We need someone from outside Hillsborough County to guide us on a new path of advocacy. Fresh ideas and perspectives are an absolute must if we are to successfully move forward.

Please hire a superintendent from outside our district. Please choose a high-scoring candidate recommended from your “nationwide search”. I respectfully ask that you to do right by our students.

Jennifer Chan

Thank you for selecting six semifinalists (to Karen Perez. Note: Perez voted to consider eight semifinalists, and that vote prevailed.)

Thank you for voting to consider the top 6 candidates that the selection firm proposed. We appreciate you looking out for the best interest of our district, and support you in continuing to do so.

Ramona Mueller

Thank you for trying to limit the pool of semifinalists (to Stacy Hahn)

Thank you for voting against increasing the search recommendations. I feel like it’s extremely important that we do not hire from within HCPS - that has been going on for far too long. We are now the 7th largest school district in the Country and we need fresh eyes and new experiences to make our schools, teachers and students even better! If this were a corporation it would never be run from only promoting within. We are too large and have such vast and unique needs. An expensive search form was hired and I applaud that you took their recommendations. We too often in this city hire experts and then negate their expertise similar to the Bay to Bay project. But that’s a whole other story! Thank you Stacy and please continue the good fight for what our district needs. It should have remained at 6 applicants but now please persevere to hire our next great leader that already has a successful superintendent track record. Thank you so much,

Rachel Nestor

Addison Davis is not trustworthy. (To all board members, unsigned.)

Would you please pass this information along to Ms. Stuart. Addison Davis is not trustworthy. This incident gives insight into his character. The harassment investigation may be a result of this incident. https://www.firstcoastnews.com/article/sports/local-travel-softball-team-coached-by-clay-superintendent-stripped-of-national-title/77-575616120