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You’re the new Hillsborough school superintendent. What do you do first?

Addison Davis, Don Haddad and Peter Licata outline their plans for the first 90 days.
From left, Don Haddad, Peter Licata and Addison Davis, all finalists for the job of Hillsborough County school superintendent, met Thursday with community members at Rampello K-8 School. The School Board will choose among the three on Tuesday. [MARLENE SOKOL  |  Times]
From left, Don Haddad, Peter Licata and Addison Davis, all finalists for the job of Hillsborough County school superintendent, met Thursday with community members at Rampello K-8 School. The School Board will choose among the three on Tuesday. [MARLENE SOKOL | Times]
Published Jan. 18

All seven semifinalists for the job of Hillsborough School superintendent were required to submit 90-day plans for the district.

Some dashed them off in a half-dozen pages. Others created voluminous reports, crammed with data to display their prior accomplishments.

We examined plans by the three finalists who will compete in a final round of interviews on Tuesday. Excerpts from the reports are linked to their names:

Addison Davis, Clay County superintendent

At a meet-and-greet Thursday following the Hillsborough County School Board meeting, superintendent finalist Addison Davis, second from right, posed for a photo with three local educators. From left, they are Nicole Binder, the district's director of assessment and accountability; Ray Bonti, executive director of the Hillsborough Association of School Administrators; and Rachel Walters, principal of Tinker K-8 School. [MARLENE SOKOL | Times]

Davis calls his plan “Accelerate Hillsborough.” In three phases, scheduled from Feb. 10 to July 8, he says he would engage, collaborate and evaluate; listen and share; problem solve, plan and implement.

He would visit schools and meet with School Board members, students, employees and education advocates.

Davis has divided his immediate priorities into six categories: School Board and superintendent relations; student achievement, including equity and teaching practices; climate and culture of the organization; community engagement; organizational and fiscal responsibility; and mental health, safety and security.

Early steps would include one-on-one meetings with board members and group meetings to establish governance norms and protocols. He wants to conduct a “SWOT” analysis, which stands for strength, weakness, opportunity and threat.

He wants to analyze student achievement data to find out why Hillsborough’s state ranking is on the decline. He wants to audit all curriculum and evaluate systems including mental health support, school counselors and assistance for special education teachers.

Davis would look closely at the district’s ongoing literacy audit. He would review school choice offerings, magnet programs, advanced placement and dual enrollment to see if enrollment is proportionate to the demographic makeup of the student body.

He also proposes to “complete a comprehensive review of every school to determine the capacity of and infrastructure related to technology equipment, access, and curriculum delivered digitally” — and find ways to eliminate barriers. He wants to audit the testing calendar, examine the early childhood landscape, and review how reading specialists are assigned.

As he did in Clay County, Davis says he will schedule “Dialogue with Davis” sessions with employee groups. Community engagement efforts will also come under the microscope.

“During the first 100 days,” he wrote, “we will work to establish and sustain two-way dialogues with all key stakeholders in the Hillsborough community and develop proactive strategies to connect with parents, caregivers, and community members who may not always have a voice."

Davis would review the district’s safety and security system, and discipline data.

He also submitted a detailed turnaround plan that addresses the challenges of Hillsborough’s 50 “Achievement” schools. As he indicated in his School Board interview, he wants the leader of the Achievement Schools project to report directly to him.

Don Haddad, superintendent, St. Vrain Valley School District, Colorado

Don Haddad, expounding Thursday on his record leading the St. Vrain Valley School District in Colorado, said he would be proud today to send his children to any of the district's schools. [MARLENE SOKOL | Times]

Haddad says his “pre-entry phase” would begin on Jan. 22, the day after he hopes to be named superintendent. This is when he would schedule meetings to learn more about the district, “in a manner that demonstrates respect and appreciation for the existing leadership team."

He would attend, or view remotely, all School Board meetings to set himself up for sound relationships with the board. And he would schedule one-on-one visits with board members.

He also would review security and emergency plans, attend key legislative sessions, and meet with legislators to acquaint himself with funding and other issues that are particular to Florida.

In addition, Haddad would familiarize himself with the budgeting systems of Florida and Hillsborough, reviewing past and current budgets, borrowing and construction plans.

He wants to know about all litigation the district is involved with. He plans to “explore Hillsborough County, including the community centers, cultural centers, neighborhoods, traditions, and environments that make up the greater community” as a first step toward developing a community outreach plan. He would “personally establish myself and family in the Hillsborough community.”

The first 90 days officially begin July 1.

At that time, Haddad would continue the pre-entry research. He would meet with board members and community leaders. He wants to ride school bus routes, and he pledges to visit at least 50 schools a month.

He proposes to take a closer look at numerous departments: Leadership development and technology infrastructure, communication and innovation.

He also wants to meet with the human resources department to “understand current staffing needs, priorities and diversity initiatives.”

Peter Licata, regional superintendent, The School District of Palm Beach County

Peter Licata said Thursday that he is happy in his job as regional superintendent of Palm Beach County, but he does not want to look back on his career with regrets. [MARLENE SOKOL | Times]

In his introduction, Licata notes that the Hillsborough district “serves a diverse community and has experienced many successes but faces some difficult challenges ahead.” These include a racial achievement gap, a teacher shortage and budgetary challenges.

He aims to spend his first 90 days creating a strong relationship with the School Board and establishing himself as the district’s new educational leader and chief executive officer.

Licata wants to plan a series of town hall meetings, aimed largely at the under-served population.

He would take a close look at student achievement data, and work to build ties with the business community. He promises to “develop a very transparent, ethical and trusting environment” and create “a sense of excitement” about the school system.

Research will take much of his time, so that after 90 days, he can establish “a clearly defined strategic plan.” He wants a retreat or special workshop with the board to establish expectations and his evaluation process. He plans meetings with principals and cabinet members to find out what they view as the district’s successes and challenges. He also wants to meet in small group settings with labor groups.

In the community, Licata plans more town meetings. He would network with chambers of commerce and industry leaders. He also wants to establish ties with local university leaders to improve students’ transition from K-12 to higher education. More meetings would take place with law enforcement officials, elected officials, civic leaders and faith-based organizations.

In the area of student achievement, Licata wants to take a top-to-bottom look at curriculum to make sure it is aligned with the Florida Standards and that it is meeting student needs. He would look at graduation data to see if there are under-performing groups of students. And he would conduct an inventory of technical programs and career academies.

Licata also would study the budget and familiarize himself with spending practices. He would get to know the human resources department, its challenges and needs.

“After 90 days,” he wrote, “my role as a transitional leader will come to a close and I will begin the role of a transformational leader.” At that time, he would collaborate with the board and others in the district and community on a strategic plan.

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