School Board ready to hunt for new superintendent


Published: Saturday, September 14, 2013 at 6:23 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, September 14, 2013 at 6:23 p.m.

The School Board of Alachua County won’t start laying out a plan to find the next superintendent of schools until next week, but a few factors are already high on some lists.

African American Accountability Alliance President Diyonne McGraw says the school district needs diversity in its leadership positions.

“It’s just time for a change,” she said.

McGraw, who has a child in public school, said she has noticed that people tend to stay at the district office, inside the Kirby-Smith Center, for decades. Some, such as outgoing Superintendent Dan Boyd, retired from being administrators at individual schools and came back as officials for the school district.

“Children learn differently now,” McGraw said, explaining that she believes the district needs fresh blood, not candidates who have carried out their entire careers in Alachua County.

When the School Board last searched for a superintendent, in 2004, a statewide search gleaned only four candidates. Of the four, Boyd was the only candidate who fulfilled the requirements the board sought.

Boyd, who had nearly 40 years of experience as a teacher and administrator before retiring in 1999, was a favorite from the start.

According to Sun archives, Boyd’s supporters, including the five School Board members at the time, touted his depth of experience in Alachua County Public Schools, while detractors said his four decades in the county rendered him too close to the district to bring much change.

“Even if he had been one candidate out of 20, I believe he would have stood out just as he stood out of four,” then-School Board member Tina Turner-Pinkoson said at the time, according to Sun archives.

McGraw said she wants to avoid another situation like that.

“I’ve seen too much nepotism,” she said. “I really hope that (the new superintendent) is one who truly believes in diversity and understands diversity.”

It’s important for students in the district to see administrators who look like them, McGraw said.

Forty-seven percent of Alachua County public schoolchildren are white, 34 percent are black, 7 percent are Hispanic, 7 percent are multiracial, and 5 percent are Asian, according to information provided by the district.

However, only a few of the school officials at the Kirby-Smith Center are minorities.

Detractors might say race or gender don’t make a difference when searching for the best candidate, McGraw said.

“The problem is when you don’t embrace the difference,” she said.

School Board member Leanetta McNealy said she wants to see a diverse pool of candidates, composed of men and women from a variety of ethnic backgrounds and experiences.

However, race and gender will not be factors in her final decision, she said.

McNealy also wants the search committee to reflect the makeup of Alachua County.

“I think it’s important to have and find a diverse pool of candidates,” she said. “That would be a No. 1 priority for me, as well as having a diverse group of people working on the search. So it needs to go both ways.”

A special School Board meeting has been scheduled for 10 a.m. Wednesday at the Kirby-Smith Center. The meeting is open to the public.

The board will appoint an interim superintendent, then move on to discussing how to find the next chief of schools.

School Board chairwoman Eileen Roy said the board either can conduct a search through the Florida School Board Association or go through a private company.

McNealy said she wants to conduct a national search. Roy said the board is preparing for the search to take up to the end of the school year.

“A lot is up in the air right now,” Roy said.

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