Addison Davis will be the new Superintendent of the Hillsborough County School District, and it will come at the expense of Clay County schools.
The school board unanimously voted Tuesday afternoon to hire Davis away from county where he was elected three years ago.
Davis originally was one of 51 candidates to run the eighth-largest school district in the country. He made the first cut to 12 and last week was selected as one of three finalists.
The board apparently was overwhelmed by his personality and record, picking him ahead of Palm Beach County’s Peter Licata and Longmont, Colorado’s Don Haddad.
“The big winner of this process are the kids of Hillsborough County,” Steve Cona III. “We know the job starts now.”
After he was selected. Davis told board members “I love Clay County. When you get a chance to drive the [eighth] largest school district, that’s a game changer.”
Davis, who got all seven votes, showed a lot energy and passion during his final round of questions. Board members clearly were enthused by his answers.
“I have been sitting in this seat [as a board member] the longest and I have been very critical of this process,” Cindy Stuart said. “I was proven wrong. This has been an extensive process. We asked some very difficult questions. We made what I think is a great selection. Congratulations Mr. Davis. I look forward to working with you.”
Davis created a curriculum that pushed Clay County to an eighth-place ranking among the state’s 67 districts. Clay also boasted a record numbers of graduates the last two years, with black, Hispanic, at-risk and disabled students posting greater increases in graduation rates than white students.
The three candidates met privately with school board members early Tuesday, then faced one final round of questions during an open meeting. Answers were limited to three minutes and Davis spoke decisively and quickly to make sure he didn’t leave any time – or questions.
“We will put our trust in you with our children,” board member Lynn Gray said. “Thank you so much for the energy.”
Gray said she was swayed by Davis’ “honesty’ during the process.
Davis made a final pitch in a final five-minute presentation.
“I’m ready to transform the instructional practices where teachers have a voice,” he said. “When you talk about the next step, Addison Davis isn’t a hypothetical. I hope in this process you’ve seen my fight; you’ve seen my tenacity.”
He finished by saying: “I will push my timecard and get it done.”
The board will make its salary offer and establish a start date at its next meeting on Feb. 18.
Board members ranked each member following Tuesday’s interview sessions. Davis finished with a matrix score of 13, while Haddad scored 6 and Licata 2.
With Davis leaving, former Superintendent Charlie Van Zant and current Keystone Heights math teacher Melanie Walls are the only two currently registered as candidates for the general election.
Davis returned to Clay County on Wednesday, and he issued the following statement:
"During this transition, I will be working collectively with the Clay County School Board and the Governor's Office to ensure the great work that has taken place over the last three years continues in our school district. Over the next few months, an interim superintendent will be appointed and will fulfill this role until the completion of the November 2020 Election. Currently, the transition timeline has not been determined and I will continue to lead the work as Superintendent of Clay County Schools. Rest assured that the District has highly qualified leaders in place who will continue the instructional momentum and make child-centric decisions.
“For the past 16 years, I have had the pleasure of living in and raising my family in Clay County, and this has truly been a special place that I call home. As Superintendent of Clay County District Schools, I have been able to impact thousands of students, teachers, support professionals, and families to help them reach their full potential. I have now been given the opportunity to touch the lives of 220,000 students and many more throughout Hillsborough County. I am thankful to be selected to embrace this new challenge to shape and direct the educational practices in the seventh largest district in the nation!”