By William Gjebre, BrowardBulldog.org
The Broward School Board will conduct a nationwide search to replace Superintendent of Schools Jim Notter, who announced this week that he was stepping down.
A majority of the board – five of nine members – told Broward Bulldog they wanted the broad search. They are Vice Chair Ann Murray, David Thomas, Robin Bartleman, Nora Rupert and Laurie Rich Levinson.
They cited various reasons, but the central theme was to identify an experienced educator who can restore the public’s trust.
“It’s crucial,” said Levinson, one of the board’s newest members.
The search process is expected to be discussed at next week’s board meeting.
Notter resigned his $300,000-a-year job on Tuesday, weeks after a scathing statewide grand jury report that criticized the school board and his leadership of the school district administration.
No heir apparent has emerged yet to succeed Notter in the high-profile, high-pressure post. One board member said several ranking administration officials were asked about their interest in the post, but replied they wanted no part of it.
“This is a good time for a national search to find the best candidate,” said Murray. “We need to find a candidate to match the size of the district, the sixth largest in the nation.”
Murray wants the search to begin soon, and the new superintendent to be in place for a “transition” period with Notter before his June 30 departure.
Notter was a district insider when he was tapped as superintendent four years ago. But Bartelman said she favors a national search because “we need to build the trust of the community.”
That trust was shattered by the critical grand jury report and the arrests of two former board members on corruption charges. Beverly Gallagher is in prison. Stephanie Kraft awaits trial.
Bartleman said the board also needs to be sensitive to the needs of minorities during the search. She noted that district efforts have improved the graduation rate of black males but “we need to find the best person to help increase the black male graduation rate. We need someone who has managed a large urban school district.”
Board member Thomas said the district needs to look for leadership qualities in its new superintendent. That person, he added, “has to take a critical look and hold people accountable, make sure they are doing” the job the way it should be done.
Rupert said a national search is a must. The new superintendent must be the district’s “moral and ethics compass,” she said.
Levinson said the next superintendent should be a professional educator with experience in commerce. “I’m interested in someone with strong educational and business backgrounds…to steer (the district) in the right direction,” she said.
Board Chairman Benjamin Williams and members Jennifer Gottlieb, Patricia Good and Maureen Dinnen said they had not yet decided how the search should be conducted, or were not ready to state their preference.
The new superintendent will have a lot of issues to deal with: reorganization of the administration in the wake of the grand jury’s criticism, dealing with a budget shortfall of about $100 million and possible layoffs; and regaining the cooperation of the employee unions, especially the Broward Teachers Union which has been hostile to the administration because of no pay increases for several years.
The school board will apparently face competition in its search for the best candidate. Seven other Florida school districts are said to have superintendent vacancies.
Photo: FRONT ROW (L to R) Robin Bartleman, Notter, Chair Benjamin J. Williams, Jennifer Gottlieb
BACK ROW (L to R) Patricia Good, Nora Rupert, Maureen S. Dinnen, David Thomas, Laurie Rich Levinson, Ann Murray
William Gjebre can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org