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Sarasota Thursday, Jun. 25, 2020 2 weeks ago

School board keeps five finalists, talks contract details

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All five remaining candidates will visit Sarasota for in person interviews June 30 through July 2.
by: Brynn Mechem Staff Writer

Although the Sarasota County School Board could have winnowed its superintendent search from the remaining five candidates, members on Tuesday decided to name all five of them finalists.

The remaining five candidates — Brennan Asplen, Peter Licata, Keith Oswald, Gonzalo La Cava and Marie Izquierdo — will now be interviewed and taken on district tours June 30 through July 2.

“Any of these people are great, and they are all, I think, worthy,” Board Member Jane Goodwin said. “We had such great candidates this time. I’m all for bringing them all back.”

Board members unanimously voted to advance Licata, La Cava and Izquierdo, while Oswald received three board votes, and Asplen received four votes to move forward in the selection process.

However, board members reconsidered and agreed it would be best to interview each candidate face-to-face rather than eliminating one or two based on video and written submissions

“I think that nothing replaces in-person interviews,” Board Member Bridget Ziegler said. “I’m very encouraged to hear that we can have all five candidates come in and continue to do our due diligence to find what fit is best.”

All five applicants, along with their significant others, will be invited to Sarasota. During the three-day stay, each candidate will participate in hourlong interviews with each of the individual school board members and will be taken on tours of the districts.

The finalists earlier in the process received 20 or more votes from the 25-member Citizens Advisory Committee, though Izquierdo was the only candidate to receive a vote from every CAC member.

After voting on finalists, the board debated the superintendent contract. 

School district attorney Art Hardy said he prepared the new contract based on previous contracts, which would stipulate an initial term of three years.

“I’d like to see at least three or four years,” Board Member Shirley Brown said. “I think we should give some understanding that this person is going to be here for a while and then make it through the next election, so the election doesn’t become, ‘Fire the superintendent; don’t fire the superintendent.’”

Goodwin questioned how much the board can negotiate the contract, citing performance pay as an area she’d like the board to consider. If the board were to include it, Hardy recommended starting performance pay in July 2021 to give the new superintendent time to get adjusted and come up with performance guidelines alongside the board.

A majority of the board members seemed to support the idea of performance pay, and Eric Robinson said he wouldn’t want to hire a superintendent who did not want performance pay.

The last contract with performance pay allowed for $5,000 awarded for each of three performance goals. Hardy said the board could decide how much money could be awarded for however many goals it chooses.

Finally, the board agreed to what Hardy called an “evergreen contract,” which would allow the board to renew the contract one year from its end date, so the contract would always have between one and two years remaining. Otherwise, the contract can expire, or the board could take a majority vote to end the contract early.

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