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Superintendentcandidates down to the top five

By Staff | Apr 16, 2011

The Lee County School Board named its five finalists for superintendent on Friday, but the search could start all over again if the forthcoming interviews prove less than stellar.
School Board members named Steven Cobb, Joe Burke, Kamela Patton, Nancy Graham and Constance Jones as the five final candidates for the job.
But one school board member thought the search has thus far yielded candidates that aren’t the right fit for Lee County, and suggested putting the brakes on the process to begin anew.
Jane Kuckel said the board could extend interim Superintendent Larry Tihen’s term while re-advertising the job.
“This is the most important decision this board could make, and I don’t take that charge lightly,” she said. “We did not receive an application from a long-term sitting superintendent in any district … we don’t have substantial evidence to make a judgement about how well they would work.”
Tihen said he would open to sticking around for the short term, but didn’t want to commit to the job if the process was going to take upwards of a year to resolve.
Tihen’s, whose wife is battling a medical ailment, said he’s dedicated to the board, at least for a while.
“If this is something the board was moving forward with in the near future …. a short- term situation (my wife) and I are more comfortable with this,” he said.
Of the five finalist, four have education experience in Florida school districts, with a couple serving in Southwest Florida.
Steven Cobb is currently the chief academic officer for Fort Wayne Community Schools in Fort Wayne, Indiana; Joe Burke is currently the superintendent for the Monroe County, Fla. school district; Kamela Patton is currently the assistant superintendent for Miami-Dade County schools; Connie Jones is the Lee County Schools chief academic officer; Nancy Graham is currently principal of Naples High School.
Patton is also in the running for Collier County’s superintendent.
Board member Thomas Scott said it was the board’s responsibility to keep moving forward with the process, suggesting that if the interviews don’t yield a new superintendent, then the search could start again.
David Hall, who headed the citizen selection committee, said he never got the impression from committee members about “weak candidates” or starting over, but he did say interviews might help the board to better identify what it they’re looking for in a superintendent.
“It might help us formulate what we’re looking for, and one of those people might be exactly what we’re looking for and we just don’t know it yet,” he said.
The citizen committee selected the same five candidates on Thursday night, and consultant Wayne Blanton selected Burke, Patton, Jones and Graham, also adding Leon Hobbs and Dennis Thompson, Collier County superintendent, to the mix.
Dr. Judy Piesco, who sits on the citizen committee, called the selection process flawed, adding that many of the potential candidates were being included or excluded based on “superficial observations” and not their credentials as educators or professionals.
“It’s a biased process. It’s a joke,” she said. “It’s never been done like this anywhere else that I’ve seen.”
School Board member Mary Fischer stood by the selection process in place, and though simply starting over would hurt the board’s credibility.
“I thought we made an informed, educated decision to move forward with the process we agreed on,” Fischer said. “We don’t want to appear uncertain … we may not choose a person out of the current pool, but we cannot dismiss the pool we have.”
Board member Don Armstrong agreed.
“If they don’t wow our socks off, we can go back. But we do need to move forward and continue to bring leadership,” he said.
Kuckel said she would continue to support the process as it moves into the interview phase.
Finalists will be invited for three days of interviews and meeting with the school board and various committees.