EAST COUNTY — Six finalists for the Manatee County School District’s superintendent job are set to interview with the School Board. They include a state education leader, a 110-meter hurdles record holder and a lifelong military man who’s drawn praise from politicians such as Rahm Emanuel and Arne Duncan.
Candidates include Pam Stewart, Diana Greene, Dr. Constance Jones, Kathryn LeRoy, Rick Mills and Dr. John Carvelli.
On Tuesday, Feb. 12, each candidate will interview one-on-one with each of the School Board members, during 55-minute sessions. Interviews will be open to the public and will be recorded.
The next superintendent will replace Tim McGonegal, who resigned Sept. 10, after he revealed a $3.4 million budget deficit. David Gayler has been acting as the interim superintendent since Oct. 15.
Candidates being considered for Manatee’s top post come from varied educational backgrounds.
Stewart, the former interim education commissioner at the Florida Department of Education, began her work with the state in October 2004. She took a brief hiatus to become deputy superintendent of Florida’s top-ranked St. Johns County School District from May 2009 to October 2011. Stewart implemented policy rather than crafted it.
Jim Warford, Florida’s first chancellor for public schools and former superintendent of Marion County Schools, recruited Stewart to Tallahassee.
As superintendent of the Marion County Public Schools, Warford, with Stewart by his side, implemented Florida’s Continuous Improvement Model — the largest state intervention of low-performing schools in the nation, which resulted in more than 80% of those schools moving off the failing list — district-wide.
“What I most appreciate about Pam is her people skills; her ability to balance the school district and state level and doing it in a nuanced way,” Warford said.
Dr. Joseph Joyner, St. John’s Schools current superintendent, leaned heavily on Stewart, who was in charge of curriculum, especially for instituting Common Core, the new state-led, nation-wide education standards.
Stewart left St. John’s after only two years to return to the state as interim education commissioner. Now, she wants more.
“This has been her objective for a long while,” Warford said. “I know, in her heart, she is pursuing this for the right reasons. She recognizes a superintendent can really make an impact.”
Stewart and Greene once worked together in Marion County and were references on each other’s applications.
Greene, who has worked in Marion County for more 20 years — as a teacher, principal and now as deputy superintendent in charge of curriculum — took a more traditional route to get here.
A former star athlete, Greene holds the school record in the 110-meter hurdles at Marion County’s Vanguard High School, where she also played basketball.
Retired Marion County Superintendent Jim Yancey says Greene played a key part in helping the district cut $50 million — without laying off any teachers — in the last five years.
She’s also battle-tested in soliciting the community. Last November, Greene lost a race to George Tomyn to become Marion County’s superintendent, an elected position.
“She is very good on her feet with answering impromptu questions, and the election helped with that,” Yancey said.
Individuals who have interviewed her call candidate Constance Jones, the former chief academic officer in charge of curriculum for Lee County Schools, “prepared and intelligent.” Jones was reassigned after she lost out on the district’s superintendent opening in 2012.
Chuck Shaw, chairman of the Palm Beach County school board, interviewed Jones as a finalist for the district’s superintendent opening in 2012. He called Jones quiet and reserved with a consensus-building style about which Manatee’s citizens group expressed reservations.
Shaw said Jones’ nature didn’t factor into their hire; she just lost to the better candidate for that time period.
LeRoy, the former chief academic officer of Duval County Schools who now directs the district’s high school programs after she lost out on its superintendent job in 2012, handled a budget of more than $175 million and comes from a math and science background.
She served as district supervisor of science for Miami-Dade County Schools from 1999 to 2004.
Mills is an “outside” candidate from Minneapolis Public Schools and formerly of Chicago Public Schools, who also holds 30 years of military administration experience.
When Mills left Chicago as area superintendent of 26 high schools for Minnesota, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel tried to persuade him otherwise.
In letters of recommendation, former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley and Arne Duncan, the U.S. Secretary of Education and former CEO of Chicago Public Schools, credited Mills with developing six military academy schools and 35 high school JROTC programs.
The last finalist, Carvelli, a veteran administrator, has worked for the Palm Beach County School District since 1997 and also served four terms on the St. Lucie County School Board from 1994 to 2010.
He has been the principal at Pierce Hammock Elementary School, in Palm Beach County, since 2010.
School Board members indicated the ultimate hire might just come down to timing.
“All of these people can do the job,” said Bob Gause, Manatee County school board member. “It’s about who can do the best job during this particular moment in our district.”
Contact Josh Siegel at [email protected].
THE TOP SIX
Pam Stewart, of Tallahassee, the former interim education commissioner at the Florida Department of Education
Diana Greene, former Marion County Deputy superintendent
Dr. Constance Jones, an administrator-on-assignment at Gulf Middle in Cape Coral and a finalist for Lee County superintendent in 2011 and Palm Beach County and Pinellas County in 2012
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
Rick Mills, Minneapolis Public Schools CEO
Dr. John Carvelli, principal of Pierce Hammock Elementary School, in Palm Beach County