SBAC gathers names for superintendent search

Only 15 months removed from its last superintendent transition, the Alachua County school district is once again in search of a leader after the School Board of Alachua County fired Superintendent Carlee Simon on March 1.

Deputy Superintendent Donna Jones is currently filling in as acting superintendent of Alachua County Public Schools (ACPS), but that could change on Tuesday, when the SBAC will decide who to install as interim superintendent. 

Board member Dr. Leanetta McNealy, the immediate past chair, told WCJB she will nominate Jones for the role.

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Jones has worked at ACPS since 1991 and even a little before, teaching at Eastside and  serving as dean or principal at Oak View Middle School, Ft. Clarke Middle School, Kanapaha Middle School, Carolyn B. Parker Elementary and Duval Elementary. 

Armed with degrees from UF, Austin Peay State University and Nova Southeastern University, Jones moved into the role of director of secondary curriculum before becoming director of K-12 curriculum and then deputy superintendent in 2017. 

At last week’s meeting, SBAC Chair Rob Hyatt asked board members to consider candidates for the position and bring forward names. 

“I think it’s important that we try to get someone that everyone can agree on,” Hyatt said at the last meeting. “Maybe that’s not possible. Or at least a 4-1.” 

Jackie Johnson, spokesperson for ACPS, said the members can select anyone for the spot, and the public will be able to speak during the regular input allowed for each action item.

“If and when the board decides to do a full blown search for a permanent superintendent, that process usually is a much longer process and typically involves much more outreach to the community,” Johnson said. 

Johnson said the board will likely discuss how it will proceed toward a permanent superintendent at the meeting, but it will not vote on the issue. 

Six superintendents, including Simon, have left in the past decade at ACPS, according to WUFT. The school board approved Simon as interim in December 2020 before giving her the full post with a raise and term extension in March 2021 by a 3-2 vote.

“We all do our best as a staff to maintain continuity and to have a seamless transition, and we will continue to do that,” Johnson said. 

Currently, the district is dealing with employee shortages and potential funding loss from the Florida Legislature, which is aimed at districts that implemented a mask mandate in 2021. A highlight from the last SBAC meeting, overshadowed by Simon’s departure, is a record-breaking $10.5 million salary agreement with the district’s bargaining unit.


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