Fifteen people have applied to be Orange County’s next public schools superintendent before Friday night’s deadline, with Deputy Principal Superintendent Barbara Jenkins among those seeking to replace her when she retires this fall.
the candidate pool includes experienced school administrators, candidates with interesting backgrounds who might pique the interest of the Orange County School Board and a few, as expected, who are unqualified to lead one of the largest school districts in the country, said Andrea Messina, executive director of the Florida school. Boards Association, which manages the search for OCPS superintendents.
The number of applicants is also far lower than what the school district likely would have received a few years ago, Messina said.
“The number of superintendent candidates is dwindling across the country,” she said. “It’s not as desirable a job as it used to be.”
The Superintendent’s job has always been high profile with a lot of responsibility, but a lot of ‘community division’ over the past year has made him less appealing and seen as ‘much more in the hot seat than he ever was. been before,” she added.
Anger over face masks during the COVID-19 pandemic has sparked heated school board meetings in Orange, across Florida and the country and continued debates about books and teaching about LGBTQ-related topics and race also took place.
In early 2021, more than 50 people applied to be the Polk County School District‘s new superintendent, but since then most superintendent jobs in Florida have seen far less interest, Messina said. The Pinellas County School District, which just completed its superintendent search, received 19 applicants.
Among the candidates who want to lead Orange are Deputy Superintendent Maria Vazquez, who has the backing of Jenkins, a regional superintendent for the Palm Beach County school district, a superintendent for a small school district in South Carolina who was the superintendent of the year of his state, and administrators of the school systems of New York and Washington, DC.
The Orange County School Board, which hires the superintendent, will begin discussing candidates at a meeting on Wednesday. He hopes to make a decision by the end of June.
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The school board plans to offer its new superintendent a three-year contract with a salary range of $295,000 to $350,000 per year. After considering shared public opinion in surveys and meetings, the board said it preferred candidates who had served as a teacher, principal and administrator and worked in districts with at least 35,000 students.
Orange has more than 206,000 students and more than 25,000 employees.
President Teresa Jacobs said she was “a little surprised” that there weren’t more nominations, but also understood that the current climate made it difficult.
Because Orange is the ninth-largest school district in the nation, some school administrators may not have the qualifications to handle such a large operation, she added, and Florida’s public records law, which means applications are public, could also discourage some applicants.
But Jacobs said she was confident there were quality candidates among the 15.
Jenkins, who has held the position for a decade, is retiring at the end of this year. His decision was dictated by his entry into the state’s deferred pension scheme in 2018. This requires him to stop working by the end of 2022.