Manatee school board will vote whether to keep Bob Gagnon as interim superintendent

kbergen@bradenton.comSeptember 18, 2012 

MANATEE -- Interim Superintendent Bob Gagnon might have a short stay in his new position after next Monday night's board meeting.

The Manatee County school board decided Tuesday that it will vote on whether to keep Gagnon in his position or replace him with another qualified candidate until a permanent replacement for former superintendent Tim McGonegal can be found.

The decision came out of a workshop hosted by Florida School Boards Association executive director Wayne Blanton, who walked the board through the process of conducting a thorough search for candidates.

Blanton has already spoken with three former superintendents who would be interested in serving Manatee County on a temporary basis. They are Arthur Johnson, former superintendent in Palm Beach County; Bill Vogel, former superintendent in St. Lucie and Seminole counties; and David Gayler, former superintendent in Charlotte County.

All three candidates have left Florida school systems in the past two years, Blanton said, and are up-to-date with the issues the district has been facing, including a budget shortfall this year and poor performance grades for several schools.

Looking into the possibility of another interim candidate was something the

board seemed interested in, even at last week's board meeting.

Julie Aranibar said Tuesday that the board didn't have a chance to look at other options, given the timing of McGonegal's resignation before a board meeting.

"We had about an hour notice about this opening," Aranibar said.

Part of the board's hesitation about keeping Gagnon on as interim revolves around the uncertainty as to whether he would potentially apply for the superintendent position. Gagnon said last week that he will not rule out applying at this time.

Board member Barbara Harvey brought up previous board discussions about whether Gagnon would discourage others from applying if he applied for superintendent while acting as an interim superintendent. Blanton confirmed this may be an issue.

"I think you will get a few less candidates when you have an interim applying as superintendent," Blanton said. "People think they are on an inside track."

Gagnon is also responsible for his duties as assistant superintendent of teaching and learning, and is slated to present a plan on how he will handle the workload of both positions at Monday's meeting as well.

The board will also decide then whether they want to hire the association to assist in the search or explore other options.

The Florida School Boards Association caps its costs at $8,000, Blanton said. The district would also be responsible for covering the cost of advertising, including brochures, and the cost of bringing candidates to the district to be interviewed.

Blanton estimated that the superintendent search would cost Manatee County about $15,000.

Under Blanton's recommendation, the board already plans to hold public hearings so that the community can voice what qualifications they want in their new superintendent. The board will discuss dates, venues and formats for those hearings Monday as well.

Next, the board will have to make several decisions on how they want to proceed. They'll have to decide whether to hold a local, state or national search. They'll have to define specific qualifications for candidates. They'll have to schedule times for candidates to visit the district for interviews.

But some of their first priorities, Blanton said, should be determining a starting date for the chosen candidate and a cut-off date for applicants, deciding a salary range and beginning advertising as soon as possible.

Most districts make starting dates in June or July, Blanton said, to disrupt the school year as little as possible for both parties.

The board will also have to decide if they want a citizens committee to help vet candidates and how large of a role that committee will play in the search process.

Katy Bergen, Herald education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081.

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