A few dozen people attended a community forum at Bloomingdale High School to provide input about the hiring of a new superintendent for Hillsborough County schools.

By Brad Stager

The process of hiring a new superintendent to lead Hillsborough County’s public schools has begun, with the process including input from the public online and at community forums such as the one that took place on September 17 at Bloomingdale High School.

A few dozen parents, school district employees and interested residents told a consultant hired by the district to facilitate the hiring process what they want to see in the new superintendent who will replace the departing Jeff Eakins. The meeting was facilitated by Sandi Gero of Ray and Associates, a company specializing in educational recruitment that is conducting the national search.

Gero said hiring a new superintendent is a task that should not be undertaken casually. “It is the most important job your school board embarks upon.”

While most of the meeting was devoted to collecting input regarding the qualities expected of a new superintendent, Gero began by asking the audience why someone from outside of the Tampa area would want to move here. The answers highlighted the district’s range of school—urban, suburban and rural—as well as the high quality of its teachers and staff who work in them. The variety of academic programs such as advanced placement courses and magnet schools was also cited.

As for what attendees wanted in a new school leader, characteristics such as a collaborative management style and a commitment to conducting the district’s business with integrity and holding people accountable for their actions were mentioned. Some audience members said the ability to properly manage the district’s infrastructure, especially ensuring adequate air conditioning, is needed. Supporting and providing engaging educational opportunities to a diverse student population, in terms of race, socioeconomic standing, gender/sexual orientation as well as physical and cognitive abilities, was also mentioned.

Jacqueline Haynes, who is director of the district’s 50 achievement schools (schools identified as needing greater district support), said closing the gap between high-achieving students and those who are struggling is important. “We have to level the playing field for our students.”

Audience members were also invited to submit names of people who they thought would do a good job.

The information gathered at community forums and online submissions will be presented to the school board in October, with the recruiting process expected to last to the end of 2019, and a new superintendent will be selected at the beginning of 2020, according to Gero.