SBAC keeps interim superintendent amid mixed marks 

Alachua County Public Schools interim Superintendent Shane Andrew at the Westwood Middle School wall raising on April 24.
Photo by Megan V. Winslow

The School Board of Alachua County (SBAC) gave interim Superintendent Shane Andrew a mixed evaluation, but still voted to keep him in place as the head of the school system through the end of his contract in June 2024. 

The school board members evaluated Andrew during their regular meeting Tuesday. They rated him on student achievement, strategic planning, comprehensive rezoning and student behavior and offered an overall evaluation of his performance.  

The board’s evaluations, which the board voted unanimously to accept, were made public as part of the SBAC's agenda. Policy requires the board to evaluate the superintendent at least once a year, and Andrew has been in the role since March 2022

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The board voted on April 18 to hire the Florida School Board Association (FSBA) to conduct a search for a permanent superintendent and met with Andrea Messina, the FSBA chief executive, to discuss what that search process would look like.  

“I don’t understand why the evaluation was causing so much angst amongst folks,” SBAC Chair Tina Certain said. “It is more policy that that gets done.” 

SBAC Board Member Sarah Rockwell
Courtesy of Alachua County Public Schools Sarah Rockwell

The ratings for Andrew ranged from unsatisfactory to highly effective. Board Members Kay Abbitt, Diyonne McGraw and Leanetta McNealy gave Andrew an overall rating of effective while Certain rated him as needs improvement overall and Board Member Sarah Rockwell gave him an overall unsatisfactory rating. 

Despite giving him an unsatisfactory rating in all but one category, Rockwell did not push for his firing.  

“I think Mr. Andrew has an opportunity to really improve,” Rockwell said. “We can move forward [following the evaluations] and start making some of the progress that we all want to see.” 

Rockwell said her main issues with Andrew’s performance was the lack of a project management approach to priority items and poor communication to the board and the public about the school system’s progress on ongoing issues.  

“If we have a specific plan about how to improve and implement project management, and we convey those updates here in the sunshine, where everyone can be held accountable… I think we can all move forward with unity to improve education for all of our children,” Rockwell said. 

McNealy, who described Andrew as effective in her evaluation but gave him an unsatisfactory for student achievement and needs improvement for student behavior, addressed him directly during the discussion. 

“Mr. Andrew, you are not going to get an easy pass from me or any other person sitting up here,” McNealy said. “[But] I respect you wholeheartedly, and I know what you are able and capable of doing if we can all support you.” 

Abbitt was the only board member to give Andrew a highly effective rating – giving him the highest marks for his work on the comprehensive rezoning even as she said his work on student achievement and student behavior needs improvement. She also pushed her fellow board members to change the timeline for the search for a new superintendent and leave Andrew in place as superintendent through the conclusion of his contract. 

Abbitt said hiring a new superintendent in November would be too disruptive to students and teachers. She said keeping Andrew in place through June “seems like a natural transition.” 

SBAC Board Member Diyonne McGraw
Courtesy of Alachua County Public Schools Diyonne McGraw

“By that time, rezoning will be completed, and the strategic plan will be completed,” Abbitt said. “It just seems like common sense.” 

Her motion to delay the start of the search for a permanent superintendent until January 2024 and keep Andrew at the helm of the school system through June 2024 passed 3-2. Rockwell and Certain voted against the motion, saying they wanted a quicker search process that would produce a new superintendent by November. 

McGraw and McNealy voted with Abbitt to delay the search. 

“[January] is plenty of time to look for a superintendent,” McGraw said. “It will honor his entire contract and then we will have somebody else transitioning after a full school year… [and] that will give us a full school year for him to really be able to implement his plan.” 

Jordan Marlowe, the mayor of Newberry who also teaches at Newberry High School, was one of several community members to speak in support of retaining Andrew. 

“I know that you guys have your own metric for evaluations. As a teacher, my metric this year was stability and calmness,” Marlowe said, alluding to the departures of former superintendents Karen Clarke and Carlee Simon during the last two school years.

Marlowe taught under Andrew when he was a principal, and said he thought Andrew was the right person to get the district through a comprehensive rezoning process, which has already started. 

“Coming out of the pandemic… it was hectic,” Marlowe said. “It was tumultuous, and we all needed to take a breath. And I gotta tell you, I’m not done breathing. I need one more year of that stability.” 

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The effect Covid politics has had on students is still being resolved. Blame Washington, not your own superintendent.