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School board undecided on superintendent search

Board members agreed on a salary range and base qualificationsbut still do not know when the new candidate will officially be chosen.

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  • | 5:03 p.m. April 7, 2020
  • Sarasota
  • Schools
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The Sarasota County School Board was supposed to work out a timeline for the search for a superintendent Tuesday.

After more than two hours of discussion, it’s still undecided.

Board members Shirley Brown, Jane Goodwin and Caroline Zucker want to forge ahead with a  timeline that would place a new superintendent in charge by mid-June, despite the inability to gather public forums on the topic. 

Disagreeing with that approach, board members Bridget Ziegler and Eric Robinson said holding to that plan might mean missing out on candidates who are backing away from a new job while they  steer their current districts through COVID-19 response.

“To surge ahead with a June deadline, I think, is the wrong approach,” Ziegler said. “We are still in a healing phase, and we are trying to fill what I could argue is the most important position in the county, and I want to make sure we do it correctly.”

Bill Vogel, a search consultant with Florida School Board Association, said he has heard from two potential candidates who said they would no longer be able to apply in the midst of pandemic response.

However, FSBA Executive Director Andrea Messina said as the situation evolves, the more likely it will be that candidates will feel comfortable applying.

In the end, the board decided on a statement saying it still hopes to hire a candidate by the start of the 2020-21 school year, but the search might still be affected by the coronavirus. At its next meeting, the board will decide on a more concrete timeline.

The board agreed to cancel its postponed community forums and instead rely on responses from its online survey.

The district received 5,000 responses from community members and 4,800 from staff, which Vogel said is the largest FSBA has seen.

From those responses, FSBA consultants highlighted 17 recurring qualities and compiled a list for the board. Board members will now narrow down the list of qualities and use those to advertise the position and as a basis for interview questions. 

Additionally, the board agreed to advertise a salary range of $190,000-$245,000 and seek at least five or more years of executive experience. 

In the last search, the board listed three years of executive experience, which the board said was too little. 

“When you’re managing people who are managing people, you have to learn a completely new skillset,” Robinson said. “… I think Sarasota should not be getting somebody who needs to learn those skill sets on the job. We need somebody who already has those skill sets.” 


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