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Sarasota Wednesday, Jun. 3, 2020 3 months ago

Panel narrows superintendent search to 11

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The citizens advisory committee will now reach out to the 11 candidates' references before giving final recommendations to the board.
by: Brynn Mechem Staff Writer

The field for the role of superintendent of Sarasota County Schools was narrowed from 31 to 11 Tuesday night during the first official meeting of the Citizens Advisory Committee.

The narrowed list includes several administrators of Florida school districts and two candidates from Sarasota County Schools. 

The window for applications closed at midnight May 29, leaving the 25 members of the CAC four days to consider the field, which originally totaled 34 before three withdrew.

The 25 members of the CAC put forth as many candidates as they wanted to be considered for the final round before being presented to the board. Five candidates received 20 or more votes, which the CAC members were happy to advance. 

However, they couldn’t decide on the minimum number of votes required to advance.

Some committee members, such as Carolyn Johnson, wanted to limit the finalists to those who received votes of support from 20 or more committee members.

“I have trouble putting forward candidates with half the points of the higher group,” Johnson said. “It seems to me that it would confuse things, not clarify them.”

However, several members, such as Tom Chaffee, suggested accepting candidates who received nine or more votes. This would allow the field to be cut by two-thirds but keep a strong pool, he said.

“They say you eat an elephant one bite at a time, and going down from 31 resumes to 11 seems pretty rational to me,” he said. “Then we can take the next week and thoroughly vet the remaining 11.”

Search consultant John Reichert cautioned the CAC members about cutting the pool too much.

“One of the things we try to do is give the school board as many vetted candidates as possible,” he said. “We’ve had three withdrawals already, and I wouldn’t be too quick to eliminate certain people.”

In the end, the committee decided to move forward with the 11 candidates who received nine or more committee votes.

Now the committee will begin researching each candidate and contacting references and peers of each candidate. They are not, however, allowed to reach out to the candidates directly.

“We are now in phase two of the vetting process,” Reichert said. “We want to make sure we know as much about these candidates as we can.”

When the committee meets for the final time June 9, each member will have the chance to put forward final choices.

After they’ve discussed each candidate, a final vote will be taken to determine which candidates will be put before the school board for consideration.

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