Sarasota School Board members pick their new superintendent next week and they are ready for a fresh start.

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PineApple Report Staff | July 9, 2020

For many months now, the Sarasota School District has been in the process of evaluating candidates to determine who will be their next superintendent. Selecting a superintendent is one of the most important decisions school board members make other that deciding on the annual budgets and one that will have significant impact on their communities. 

Sarasota schools have had their share of issues to contend with while trying to make a selection. The Board members have been dealing with several challenges, including a state’s FDOE investigation over the former superintendent’s handling of a sexual harassment case, a return to school plan and conducting a search under a pandemic. It has been a taxing time on the Board and members are ready to make a decision and begin the next phase with their new superintendent. 

The candidates

The five remaining finalists are all from Florida and from three very different counties. One finalist is from St. Johns County in North East Florida. Remarkably, three candidates are from Palm Beach School District, and the fifth candidate is from Miami-Dade County Public Schools. The group of finalists is somewhat diverse, but not that uniquely different for Florida, consisting of four men and one woman. Of the four male candidates, three wold be considered white, non-minorities, and the remaining male is a first-generation Hispanic. The lone women of the group is a south Florida Hispanic.

The original list of 31 applicants was quickly reduced to 11 with the help of a community leadership committee that winnowed down to the current “Fab Five”. Last week the remaining finalists had their fill of of meetings, public hearings, one-on-one televised interviews with Florida School Boards Association’s (FSBA) Executive Director, Andrea Messina, who has been contracted to head the search. They also had a community bus tour that included family members and had individual private meetings with all the Board members. 

Board member Jane Goodwin, the newly elected President of the FSBA, is ready to move forward and get to work with the new superintendent.

She can see clear skies ahead and is very proud of how the community was engaged in the selection process.

” We had more than 2,000 people who filled out our surveys and provided input, and we had a leadership committee that made recommendations that was very very helpful. I am so grateful to the community which helped me make my decision easier”

The superintendent search has been an exhaustive process made more challenging under COVID-19 distancing rules. According the School Board Chair Caroline Zucker, they are ready for the next chapter.

Ms. Zucker said “We have five very impressive candidates with varied skill sets and any one of them could do a fabulous job, but we must pick the very best. As Board Chair, it’s important that we deliver a message of unity to this county. We have done a great job of involving the community specially under COVID-19.” 

The final decision

The Board is set to make its decision this coming Tuesday, July 14th. It is sure to be an event worth watching as there could be some fireworks given the some time divided Board. At the end of the day, Board members will exercise one of the biggest votes and a new superintendent will be selected. This decsion will allow the District to move forward. The next big event in Sarasota Schools is the upcoming elections, which could change the balance of power and control of the Board. Either way the newly minted superintendent will need to be ready to lead with little runway.