The old adage ''spring forward, fall back" applies to the time change which adjusts our clocks twice a year. Our school district will move forward, both in time and direction, when we swear in our newly selected superintendent of Manatee schools, Rick W. Mills.
Judge Tom Gallen will administer the oath to Mr. Mills at 8 a.m. on March 20 in the board chambers. For those who cannot attend, the ceremony will be televised live.
While March 20 marks the official calendar start of Mr. Mills, he has already provided us with his "100 day Entry Plan" which will be posted March 19 on the district's website. Contained in the plan are benchmarks, markers and meetings noted for all to see. This sets the tone for transparency to build trust and accountability for results.
He will provide updates on his progress, and has already alerted us to read the book "The Advantage" by Patrick Lencioni. This will be a primer for us all as we all seek ways to build a positive, accountable culture that enables us to spring forward and never fall back.
Our goal was to execute a transparent, collaborative search for the superintendent. The successful conclusion of the superintendent search was due in large part to the efforts of all our stakeholders -- both internal and external.
The two days of interviews, Feb. 11-12, were exhausting yet exhilarating. We interviewed, in full view of the public, six highly qualified, talented and knowledgeable leaders. We are confident that we selected the best candidate to move our district forward.
My special thanks goes to the Citizens Advisory Group; Manatee Education Association; Association of Federated, State, County and Municipal Employees; district staff representatives, and of course, those wonderful students whose tough questions impressed everyone. I also extend a special thanks to the print and electronic media for the coverage throughout the process.
Since the selection of Mr. Mills on Feb. 20, volunteers, citizens and staff have been calling and emailing, asking how can they can continue to support our new superintendent in improving the district. We are eager to meet his energy, enthusiasm and expertise to re-establish a culture and tradition of excellence so that all students will learn, dream and achieve.
Mr. Mills is anxious to include and collaborate with all to build capacity, transparency and shared accountability.
On March 18, students and staff return refreshed from spring break. Many high school students started their break on March 9 by taking SAT college prep and assessment tests. Some have already heard from colleges while others eagerly awaiting April notifications. We wish all our students best success as they can move to the next phase of their lives in college or career paths.
There has been no "spring break" from the district's financial challenges. Turning on position control, a method of monitoring salary and benefit expenditures, provided us greater visibility on our financial situation, resulting in a Feb. 28 memorandum mandating the curtailment of specified expenditures.
Our reserves must be increased to meet state requirement. Fiscal restraint requires diligence, increased attention and demands change from the way we have done business. We cannot spend without proper planning, budgeting, monitoring and responsibility at all levels in the district.
During Superintendent Mills first 100 days, there will be close examination of all operational areas with a priority of effort on finance/budget. Additionally, policies will be reviewed, updated or created where lacking, e.g. nepotism, fraternization, etc. Intense scrutiny will be given to information services, human resources, finance, legal, business operations, strategic planning and service delivery to the schools.
Mr. Mills has created a transition team through the support of the Florida Department of Education and Florida Superintendents Association. This team will lead an effort in assessing the operation and finance systems.
An economic recovery plan will be provided to the superintendent upon completion. As chair of the school board, I fully embrace this rigorous process, particularly since skilled practitioners from throughout the state will identify methods to develop higher, effective operational standards.
I believe all stakeholders are committed to moving the School District of Manatee County to a culture of excellence. Through leadership, accountability, and execution, we are truly ready and willing to enable us to "spring forward."