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Alachua County School Board Hunting For Its New Superintendent

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Community members  discussed about the important features they want in the next Alachua County superintendent.
Community members discuss what they want in the next Alachua County superintendent.

Alachua County School Board Members held the first of three forums Tuesday night at Hidden Oak Elementary School to begin the search for the next Alachua County Public Schools superintendent.

Sandy Hollinger, former deputy superintendent, came out of retirement to lead the forum.

She collected data from the community on what she saw as the challenges the next superintendent would face, why the next superintendent should want to move to Alachua County and what characteristics community members wanted to see.

Though the board has a few minimum requirements for the next superintendent, Hollinger said, it’s not ready to talk until they hear from the community.

The search for the next superintendent will be a national search, she said.

“We want someone who comes to live in the community with all that that encompasses,” she said.

Challenges community members said the next superintendent will face include economic development, poverty’s effect on schools and a need for increased diversity among educators.

The forum was held Tuesday night at Hidden Oak Elementary School. The next two forum will take place Nov. 7 at Metcalfe Elementary School and Nov. 12 at Irby Elementary School.
The Tuesday night forum was held at Hidden Oak Elementary School. The next two are Nov. 7 at Metcalfe Elementary School and Nov. 12 at Irby Elementary School.

They said the future superintendent should focus on communication, community relations, leadership skills and educational programming.

Although the turnout was not as high as expected, the school board hopes to gain more community input during the next two forums.

One community member said she would ask what the candidate’s done about the disproportionate number of students funneled into the justice system and what he or she would do once in Alachua County.

Katrina Ramos, the parent of a child in the Alachua County school system, said she believed the first forum went well, but future ones could go better.

“What I’m looking for is more parents to come out, more parents to show up and more community leaders to come out,” she said.

Ramos said this was something the community should want to be involved in.

“Stop complaining and start doing,” she said. “It’s one thing to get mad about things that are going on in our community, but if you’re not going to come out to support and try to change them, then stop talking.”

School board member Leanetta McNealy, Ph.D., said community opinion is important when hiring a superintendent.

“We hope the community feels great about their input,” McNealy said. “This is not fake at all. This is true. We need input. We need people to say, ‘What do you want to see in your next leader?’”

The next forums are Nov. 7 at Metcalfe Elementary School and Nov. 12 at Irby Elementary School from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Members of the community who can’t attend the forums are urged to complete a  survey.

Hollinger said the next superintendent should be in by July 1, 2014.

About Amber Dawson

Amber is a reporter for WUFT News and can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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