EAST COUNTY — Karen Carpenter was skeptical when she heard chatter that the Manatee County Schools budget crisis would scare off qualified candidates from the open superintendent post.
Her suspicions were confirmed when she saw the names of applicants. The list, which became available Jan. 10, is full of current superintendents and deputy superintendents — names from Florida, including a top leader at the state level, and even a woman she knows from her former town of Boston.
“This shows our position is attractive,” said Carpenter, the School Board of Manatee County chairwoman. “People said because of our fiscal problems we wouldn’t get attractive candidates. Well, we did.”
The list to replace Tim McGonegal, who resigned Sept. 10, shortly after revealing a $3.4 million budget shortfall, includes 28 people, some from as far away as West Virginia, New York and Washington, D.C.
“This is a very, very high-quality group,” said Dr. Wayne Blanton of the Florida School Boards Association, who is assisting in the search. “It’s a stronger group than I’ve seen in some searches I’ve run because the depth of experience is really impressive.”
One name in particular stood out to Blanton and Carpenter: Dr. Pam Stewart, of Tallahassee, who served as the interim education commissioner at the Florida Department of Education (FLDOE) until Jan. 14, when Tony Bennett permanently took over the post.
Prior to her top role with the state, Stewart also served as chancellor of public schools for the department. Previously, she was the deputy superintendent of academic services at St. Johns County School District, a 30,000-student district in St. Augustine that has ranked No. 1 in the state on the FCAT four years in a row.
In a statement to the East County Observer, Stewart said it was a lifelong goal to become a district superintendent.
“My desire to become a district superintendent has been unwavering, and I believe I can have the most direct impact on students and student achievement as a district superintendent,” Stewart said. “The opportunity to do that in Manatee (County) simply is one that I could not pass up.”
Blanton also pointed to Dr. Constance Jones, an administrator-on-assignment at Gulf Middle in Cape Coral and Lee County’s former chief academic adviser, as a strong candidate. She was a finalist for Lee County superintendent in 2011, and also has been a finalist for superintendent posts in Pinellas and Palm Beach counties.
Other names Blanton noted include: Dr. Jayne Morgenthal, an education consultant from Naples and former superintendent of several school districts, in Kentucky; Dr. Kathleen Harris, the former superintendent of Monroe City Schools, in Louisiana, whose contract wasn’t renewed this year after a board investigation into her performance; and Kathryn LeRoy, director of high school programs in Duval County and former chief academic officer there, who was a semi-finalist for that district’s superintendent post, which was filled in September.
The next step for Manatee to fill its superintendent position, which will pay $170,000 to $195,000 annually, depending on the hire, comes Jan. 29, when the board’s citizen advisory group selects its five finalists.
The board will choose the final candidates, based on the recommendation of Blanton and the citizen advisory group. Finally, the board will name the new superintendent Feb. 18 to Feb. 28.
“There was a big failure to monitor the superintendent’s actions (previously), and it’s the responsibility of the board to look at who we hire and monitor them,” Board Vice Chairwoman Julie Aranibar said. “We need to get it right.”
Contact Josh Siegel at email@example.com.
LIST OF APPLICANTS
Diana Greene, Ocala.
Arthur Gottlieb, Queensbury, N.Y.
Kathleen Harris, Shreveport, La.
Steve Black, Venice.
Bernard Osborn, North Miami.
Rolston Cordner, Sarasota.
Kathy LeRoy, Jacksonville.
Carey Wright, Washington, D.C.
Luis Gonzalez, Harrisburg, Penn.
George Spagnola, Bradenton.
Dennis Albright, Sutton, W.Va.
Anthony Messina, Jr.,
East Patchogue, N.Y.
Richard Murphy, Clewiston.
John Carvelli, Port St. Lucie.
Rick Mills, Minneapolis.
Steven Cobb, Fort Wayne, Ind.
Fred McDowell, Medford, Mass.
Constance Jones, Estero.
Carlas McCauley, Arlington, Va.
Pam Stewart, Tallahassee.
Jayne Morgenthal, Naples
Chris Quinn, Stafford, Va.
Nancy Farley, Bradenton.
Harry LaCava, Vero Beach.
Nancy Graham, Fort Myers.
Carlos Martinez, Bethesda, Md.
Edmond Heatley, Jonesboro, Ga.