Search under way for new superintendent


Published: Wednesday, November 6, 2013 at 12:49 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, November 6, 2013 at 12:49 p.m.

Parents, principals, district staff, concerned residents and even a few University of Florida students came to Hidden Oak Elementary School last Tuesday for the first of three public hearings on the search for a new superintendent of schools.

"This is one of the most important decisions that this community has to make," Alachua County School Board Chairwoman Eileen Roy said before the discussion got started.

Former Superintendent Dan Boyd retired Sept. 30, prompting the School Board to seek the Florida School Boards Association's help in conducting a national search for a successor.

The next public hearings are scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Metcalfe Elementary and 6:30 p.m. Nov. 12 at Irby Elementary in Alachua.

But "they are not really ready to talk about what to look for in a superintendent until they hear from you," said former Deputy Superintendent Sandy Hollinger, who moderated the forum.

Hollinger broke the group of 50 people into smaller groups to discuss some of the challenges facing Alachua County Public Schools and to pick some positive qualities about Gainesville that might attract a candidate.

For the list of attractive qualities, groups cited Gainesville's ethnic and cultural diversity; diversity of educational programs; strong relationships with UF, Santa Fe College and the Chamber of Commerce, and the fact that the city has twice passed a property tax increase that directly benefits arts and music programs in schools.

As for the challenges, the group hopes the new superintendent will have some insight into mitigating the impact of Gainesville's poverty rate on educational outcomes.

Leadership skills, community relations and educational programs topped the list of factors the group said would be most important for a potential candidate to focus on.

Finally, Hollinger asked each small group to come up with one question to ask a candidate during a hypothetical interview.

They were:

* What are your top three immediate concerns that you would like to address in the district?

* Why do you want to come to Alachua County, and what do you see in this school district?

* How would you include the community in your plan to improve student achievement?

* How will you make sure all students in the district have access to the same high-quality education?

* How will you address the school-to-prison pipeline, and what have you done in the past to address this issue in other school districts?

Hollinger thanked residents for their input and assured them all of the suggestions would be passed along to the School Board.

"It is a process," she said.

Search updates will be posted on the School Board's website, www.sbac.edu, under "Superintendent Search Update."

Erin Jester is a Gainesville Sun staff writer.

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