MANATEE COUNTY — Few things, if any, could draw David Gayler from the embrace and smiling face of his 22-month-old daughter, Jo Jo.
But the former superintendent of Charlotte County Schools, who earned a reputation for the calmness and skill with which he led the district through the aftermath of Hurricane Charley, found one.
Monday, Oct. 15, he officially started as Manatee County Schools’ new interim superintendent.
Gayler said his experience in Manatee County, while serving as an assistant superintendent for 10 months in 2001 under then-superintendent Dan Nolan, was the main reason he agreed to temporarily leave retirement behind. Gayler also relishes a challenge and knew the School Board was facing serious budgetary and community-relation problems, among other issues, he said.
“Professionally, it was easy to come back to a district I loved working for,” Gayler said. “Personally, it was hard (because I’m so close with my family).”
But after speaking with his wife, Winnie, Gayler agreed to come on board. He wouldn’t have taken the position for any other county, he said.
“I was part of a district that was really moving in the right direction,” Gayler said of his time in Manatee. “I had wanted to go back to Charlotte and make changes (there, and I did for about nine years before I retired), but I never forgot the way Manatee County treated me and the way this school district offered me (a chance to help) them and gave me some good experience.”
Gayler has set three priorities for his time leading the Manatee County School District: establishing better communication and relationships between the superintendent and School Board members and community; evaluating the district’s finances; and helping to facilitate the selection of a superintendent.
“I have to believe the board and staff and the community at large want to move in the right direction,” Gayler said. “They’ve indicated that to me. Now, we have to (work hard).
Gayler, at his induction ceremony Monday, asked the board for an honest and candid conversation about the issues the district is facing and the board’s educational priorities.
Setting a new vision and pathway for the district will be one of Gayler’s top priorities moving forward. Gayler said he will review the district’s opportunities for professional development for teachers and paraprofessionals, because ongoing teacher training can have direct impact on student performance.
Gayler said he will not interfere with an audit of the district’s finances but hopes to review budget information to see if he can identify any potential savings or dollars for the classrooms, among other objectives.
He also will help facilitate the district’s superintendent search process and noted the best candidates will pounce on the opportunity to start at the district on or near April 1, because they will have the opportunity to influence next year’s budget process.
Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected].
The Manatee County School Board has hosted three public hearings to solicit feedback from the public about what it would like to see in the next superintendent. The first meeting was held Oct. 11, at Braden River High School.
Additional meetings were held Oct. 15 and Oct. 16.
Wayne Blanton, of the Florida School Boards Association, is slated to meet with School Board members Oct. 22, to disucss public hearing results and other information concerning the search for a permanent superintendent.