The Alachua County School Board began the process Tuesday to search for a new superintendent.
The board voted unanimously to pay the Florida School Boards Association, Inc. $25,000 for its help conducting the search, according to the contract approved by the School Board.
FSBA, a non-profit organization representing elected school boards, worked with the county to select previous Superintendent Owen Roberts, who resigned in June amid accusations of plagiarism.
School Board member Eileen Roy said she is optimistic the search for a new superintendent will bring one who can serve a long and fruitful tenure.
“I’d like someone who is an academic leader for this area,” Roy said. “Someone who has the managerial experience and skills to run a district of this size, and someone who is honest and forthright and willing to talk to board members.”
Interim Superintendent Sandy Hollinger, a former Alachua County deputy superintendent, was appointed in June after Roberts’ resignation. Hollinger’s contract is only for one year, ending in the summer of 2017. Alachua County Public Schools spokeswoman Jackie Johnson said it can be extended from month to month, if necessary.
Roy said the board’s goal deadline for selecting a new superintendent is late spring.
“The best time to start, I believe, is in the summer when schools are closed,” Roy said. “There’s more time to acquaint someone with the school district and how things have been done, and [to see] what kind of future they want to set for the district.”
Roy said she admires Hollinger for her familiarity with both district and state governments.
“One thing that’s very important, I think, is to have someone who is knowledgeable about Florida,” Roy said. “We have laws in place and policy in Florida that might be quite different from another state. Someone has to come in understanding the challenges that we face here in Florida.”
School Board member Gunnar Paulson said he hopes for a superintendent with experience as an administrator or a schoolteacher. He said a principal would be a preferable choice.
“One thing I want for sure is somebody that shows some empathy for our employees,” Paulson said.
Recent tribulations often made work unpleasant for many school board employees, Paulson said. A number of situations contributed to this, including the hiring of a disrespectful consultant.
“We had a very low morale the past couple years,” Paulson said. “We don’t want to see that kind of thing happen again… If you’re happy, you do a better job. If you’re not happy, it’s hard to work to the fullest of your potential.”
Paulson said his trust of FSBA to select a suitable administrator comes from his experience with the non-profit.
“We belong to the FSBA,” Paulson said. “We know it inside out. We know we’re gonna get a good service.”
Andrea Messina, FSBA’s executive director, said the organization and the Alachua County School Board have not yet worked out the details of how the search will be conducted. The board and the organization will meet October 31 in a workshop to outline the specifics of their effort.
“We make each superintendent search unique to the district to meet the needs of their community,” Messina said. “My goals are to far exceed the goals the Alachua County School Board establishes.”