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Superintendent pool narrowed to five

The five remaining candidates are all current administrators in Florida schools.

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  • | 11:20 a.m. June 11, 2020
  • Sarasota
  • Schools
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The Citizens Advisory Committee narrowed down the pool of applicants for Sarasota County Schools superintendent from 11 to five Tuesday night.

The candidates are all administrators in Florida school districts, and they each received 19 or more votes of support from the 25 members of the CAC. The two internal candidates, Stephen Covert and Allison Stewart Foster, did not advance.

“I have tremendous respect for our two local candidates, but these top five are terrific and are ready to hit the ground running,” CAC member Dan DeLeo said.

The five candidates will now be considered by the school board, which will then select finalists and conduct interviews. A new superintendent will be selected at the board’s July 14 meeting.

The CAC finalists are:

Brennan Asplen 

Brennan Asplen
Brennan Asplen

Asplen is deputy superintendent in charge of academic and student services in the St. Johns County School District.

He was previously president of the Florida Association of School Administrators and served as a principal at both the middle and high school levels. Asplen also was a finalist for Sarasota County superintendent in 2016.

“One of the key things I looked at was career paths and what they’ve done to prepare themselves to be a successful superintendent,” CAC member Scott Lempe said. “When I look at where Dr. Asplen has been in his professional development both as an educator and as a leader, … he’s a guy who has done all the things he needs to, to be ready.”

Peter Licata

Peter Licata
Peter Licata

Licata is a regional superintendent in Palm Beach County Schools. He is credited with increasing the number of career technical programs in the district and is developing the district’s COVID-19 response plan.

He also has been involved in the Chiefs for Change program, which was developed by state superintendents for upcoming leaders.

“When checking references, I got rave comments about Peter,” CAC member Kelly Caldwell said. “Everyone was positive about him and said he’s ready to take over and become that next superintendent. They said he has the training and knowledge to take that leap.”

Keith Oswald

Keith Oswald
Keith Oswald

Oswald is deputy chief academic officer in Palm Beach County. He has spent his career at Palm Beach County, except for two years with the New York City Board of Education.

Oswald is credited with creating and implementing a plan that resulted in an A rating for the district, and he helped implement the district’s online learning platform in response to COVID-19.

Some committee members expressed concerns over an incident where a principal, who was under Oswald’s oversight, refused to acknowledge the Holocaust as a fact. However, CAC members said they received “glowing recommendations” and would like to learn more about the matter during the interview process.

“Given his resume and experience, he is one of my top three candidates that showed strong instructional leadership and experience,” CAC member Robert Meyer said. 

Gonzalo La Cava

Gonzalo La Cava
Gonzalo La Cava

La Cava has served as chief of human resources in Palm Beach County for the past four years. Before that, he was the area superintendent for Fulton County Schools in Atlanta.

La Cava has a wide variety of upper management experience, including assistant superintendent and principal. He also is a member of Chiefs for Change.

“He’s been in a leadership role in all three levels of education, elementary, middle and high, and that in itself is unusual,” Lempe said. “But he also has experience at the organizational level, and I just think he’s done all the right things to prepare himself for this role.”

Marie Izquierdo

Marie Isquierdo
Marie Isquierdo

Izquierdo is chief academic officer in Miami-Dade County, the fourth largest district in the nation.

She has served as the assistant superintendent of academics, accountability and school improvement, and as the deputy chief of staff for Miami-Dade.

Izquierdo helped pass a $1.2 billion bond issue, and she has a recommendation from the Teacher’s Association.

Izquierdo also has been involved in Chiefs for Change, and she was the only candidate to receive a vote from all 25 CAC members.

“It’s the poorest district by far of all the candidates we’re looking at, and yet they’re doing better,” CAC member Tom Chaffee said. “There’s something magic going on, and I know she’s directly involved. So from my perspective, I think she’s a certifiable rock star.”


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