Duval County will not ring in the calendar year with a new superintendent.
The Duval County School Board moved unanimously Tuesday to suspend its superintendent search and re-advertise the vacancy later. The 10 people who have applied for the position will need to do so again.
The lack of candidates as well as the performance of Interim Superintendent Dana Kriznar spurred the board to extend Kriznar’s contract an additional six months, until June 30. Kriznar accepted that offer within minutes of the conclusion of the meeting.
“Having served on … four searches now, I was really taken aback that we only got 10 when in 2018 we got 70,” said board member Warren Jones.
The board has not set a date for when it will reopen the search. It hopes to have a new superintendent in place by June.
During a workshop in September, before applications were accepted, Jones and board member Charlotte Joyce expressed concern about the number of candidates because the search would have called for a superintendent to arrive in the middle of the school year.
At that time, board member Lori Hershey believed the board owed it to Jacksonville to progress on the timeline it outlined once former superintendent Diana Greene retired in July.
Wednesday, Hershey noted that this superintendent search differed from 2018 because the board sought someone to arrive in the middle of the academic year. In the prior search, applications were open in the spring, an offer was made in May and the start date was negotiated for July 1.
Joyce said that allowing applicants to finish the work they are doing is important to her. She said Wednesday that she wanted to extend the search to get more candidates. She does not want to wait until after the 2024 election to have a superintendent in place.
The Florida School Boards Association conducted the search on behalf of the board. The 10 applicants was the lowest in its recent history. In the 19 searches it has conducted since 2015, an average of 31 applicants applied for superintendent positions.
The association’s CEO, Andrea Messina, told the board that the timing of the search played a role in the dearth of applicants. The uncertainty of the board’s makeup did as well.
Next year could see as many as six seats on the board on the ballot. Hershey and Jones are term-limited. Current board Chairwoman Kelly Coker and Vice Chairwoman Cindy Pearson are up for reelection.
The Jacksonville Branch of the NAACP and other civil rights organizations filed a motion in federal court earlier this year to hold special elections for seats currently occupied by board members Charlotte Joyce and Darryl Willie in November 2024. A decision has not been made.
The 10 initial applicants included two current Duval Schools employees: Chief of Schools Scott Schneider and Elementary Region Superintendent Marianne Simon. The Clay County Schools director of facility planning and construction, Michael Kemp, was another local candidate.
Only two of the 10 had prior superintendent experience: former Rutland City (Vermont) Public Schools Superintendent Adam Taylor and current Andover Regional School District leader Clifford Burns.
Florida School Boards Association officials told the board that Burns and Taylor were among the candidates who did not meet the minimum requirements because of the size of the districts they led. Current Keiser University professor Annie Cruez-Samuels and Hillsborough County Public Schools’ magnet supervisor Robert Cox were judged to not have the qualifications listed in September’s board workshop.
Coker said the district has the luxury of deferring because of the job that Kriznar has done since taking over.
Hershey added that the current pool of applicants doesn’t have the experience that Kriznar has brought to the district. This is Kriznar’s 38th year with Duval County Public Schools.
“It has been a great privilege to lead our district during this time,” Kriznar said in a statement. “I’m inspired every day by the work of our teachers, leaders and staff in our schools and the commitment of the district team. I am also thankful for the board’s confidence in the work we are doing while they take the time to find the best future leader for our schools. Our leadership team will continue to do all we can to support our schools as the search process continues.”
This is the fifth superintendent search the Florida School Boards Association has assisted this calendar year. Brevard County Public Schools had 33 applicants from 12 states, including Schneider and Simon. Charlotte County Public Schools had 22 applicants from 11 states for its 16,000-student district. Manatee County had 27 applicants for a district with 48,400 students, and Osceola County had 32 applicants with four current superintendents for its 81,000-student district.
“We owed it to the community to get to this moment,” Coker said. “But, I am interested in getting it right. Five candidates in this district is not enough for me. … I’m looking from a larger applicant pool to pull from.”