School Board left with challenge to find short-term solutions

County needs immediate interim Superintendent until general election

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GREEN COVE SPRINGS – With Superintendent Addison Davis’ tenure officially winding down, the Clay County School Board has been pressed to determine how best to proceed forward.

The superintendent leaving to accept a job in another school district is new for Clay County, least in recent years. Davis recently accepted a position to be the superintendent for the nation’s seventh-largest school district in the Hillsborough County, where there are more than 220,000 students.

The Clay County School Board asked Davis to stay until the March school board meeting, but Davis wouldn’t commit to that. So what happens next?

Traditionally, the governor would appoint a replacement until another one is elected. There currently are four candidates, including Davis, for the general election. Davis hasn’t withdrawn his candidacy since he hasn’t signed a new contract in Hillsborough.

The three other candidates are former Superintendent Charlie Van Zant, former teacher Aaron Smith and Keystone Heights teacher Melanie Walls.

Governors usually appoint a new superintendent within days, but Gov. Ron DeSantis can wait up to six months. The school board hopes a replacement is selected soon.

School board attorney Bruce Bickner said the board can change its policy to give the board the power to select an interim superintendent that would serve in between Davis’ leave and the governor’s appointment. The school board will vote on whether to change policy to allow that during their upcoming Feb. 6 meeting.

Bickner said that is an ideal scenario, the board doesn’t even have to select an interim superintendent but that keeping that option open would prepare the district for a possible delay.

Madison County recently went through a similar situation after their superintendent resigned. The Madison County School Board changed its policy to allow it to select an interim superintendent and it’s a good thing they did. The governor didn’t appoint a new superintendent until six months later. Bickner said when the governor made the appointment, he chose the interim superintendent who had been selected by the board.

Bickner said the school board should prepare to select someone on an interim basis.

The Superintendent is an elected position in Clay County. If the Superintendent was appointed by the school board – which is how Davis was selected in Hillsborough County – Gov. DeSantis wouldn’t be involved with the process. Davis would leave and the school board would appoint a new superintendent in his place.

But that’s not the case in Clay County. Davis said the governor’s office and commissioner of education are aware of the situation.

Bickner said it’s critical the school board has its course of action planned out because the district’s business could stall without a superintendent at the helm. Meetings can’t be held since the superintendent must create the agenda.

The school board will likely formally vote to changes its interim superintendent policy its Feb. 6 meeting. The school board doesn’t have the power to select the permanent superintendent to fill out Davis’ term. It’d only be selecting an interim until the general election.

Davis quickly was identified as a leading candidate when the Hillsborough County job was posted. He told his Clay colleagues once he was one of 50 candidates:

“When large school leadership positions across the nation come open, proven and motivated educators pay attention. I am inspired by the potential for new growth and challenges to have a continued greater impact in our state. I am energized with the thought of creating equitable access for all learners while ensuring high-quality instructional experiences take place daily in Hillsborough County.”

He was a unanimous pick by the Hillsborough School Board last week. He’s expected to assume his new duties sometime next month.

Meanwhile, Clay County is left with a lot of work to find his interim replacement.

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