| The Ledger
LAKELAND — Polk County Public Schools officials are pushing their search for a new superintendent into high gear, with community, teacher, administrator and student forums scheduled for Oct. 19-22, along with an online survey currently available via the district’s website.
“All of the forums are open to anyone, should they like to attend,” said Bill Vogel, a consultant with the Florida School Boards Association, which is conducting the search. “We’ve modified it to make sure we’re meeting COVID guidelines.”
The meetings are set for next week:
• Oct. 19 at 6 p.m.: Jim Miles Center in Highland City, community forum.
• Oct 20 at 6 p.m.: Winter Haven High School, community forum.
• Oct. 21 at 4:30 p.m.: WHHS, administrative staff forum.
• Oct. 21 at 6 p.m.: WHHS, instructional and educational support staff forum.
• Oct. 22 at 12:30 p.m.: District office in Bartow, virtual student forum (not a public event).
• Oct. 22 at 6 p.m.: Haines City High School, community forum.
District officials noted that face coverings and temperature checks will be required at the community and employee forums.
The superintendent search comes after current Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd submitted her retirement announcement in May. She has pushed her last day from the end of February to the end of June in order to accommodate a more comprehensive search schedule.
Vogel and fellow FSBA consultant John Reichert said they will ask participants to submit their ideas in three categories: strengths and areas the new superintendent will need to understand and/or continue; the district’s most critical needs and what future issues will a new superintendent have to understand and address; and the personal qualities, professional experience and other skills for which the board should look in a candidate.
There’s also an online survey currently running at polkschoolsfl.com/supersearch.
“Because of the push we’re doing, we’ve already gotten 700 responses since the survey started (Monday),” said district spokeswoman Rachel Pleasant.
Board members are currently being asked to submit the names of companies and about three to five community leaders they want to have a say in who the next superintendent will be.
“I’m just going to go ahead and say it — when I asked the superintendent, she said Grady Judd, so Sheriff Grady Judd is on the list,” School Board Chairwoman Lori Cunningham said. Byrd and Judd have had a friendly relationship during her four-year term, including as they negotiated placing armed guardians in schools following the February 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County.
“So make sure those people (are those) who are most important to you,” Cunningham said.
The district also unveiled a video to inspire students to get involved in the search. One of the students in the video, Alyson Bences, is a junior at Ridge Community High School.
“I want a superintendent who likes to talk to and get to know the students,” Bences told district officials.
The next School Board meeting regarding the superintendent search is currently scheduled for Nov. 30 following the Thanksgiving break.
Ledger reporter Kimberly C. Moore can be reached at [email protected] or 863-802-7514. Follow her on Twitter at @KMooreTheLedger.