MANATEE -- Diana Greene was considered for the position of superintendent of schools this year because of her strong background in education and leadership skills. Now, with Rick Mills as superintendent and Greene as deputy superintendent of instruction, the school board feels like they have a win-win team.
"She has good communication with Mills, and she has a heart for the children and their academic progress," said school board member Barbara Harvey, who was a proponent for Greene in the superintendent selection.
Greene's first day on the job was Thursday, just one day after leaving her post as the deputy superintendent of Marion County schools.
Greene replaces Bob Gagnon, who served as the assistant superintendent of instructional services for Manatee County schools. Mills eliminated Gagnon's position as part of his reorganization plan.
Mills predicted that a deputy superintendent of schools position would draw people who are highly qualified, such as Greene. In Marion County, Greene also served as an elementary school principal and the director of staff development.
Greene describes Manatee County and Marion County as "unspoken sister counties." While demographics are not quite the same, the sizes of the district are almost identical.
"I thought my experiences would work well here for the students' benefit," Greene said.
As the deputy superintendent of instruction, Greene will be responsible for day-to-day operations that impact curriculum issues, which include anything to do with students, teachers, principals, support staff, and resources and service provided. Her annual salary is $132,503.
Greene acknowledges that, given the district's current financial situation, it is going to be hard work, and there
may be some difficult decisions ahead.
"I will do anything to get us to a level where the district can maintain quality services for students," Greene said.
School board member Dave "Watchdog" Miner, who cast his vote for Greene in the superintendent selection, said he believes Greene showed courage in Marion County. Mills, he added, made a wise decision by choosing Greene to serve as deputy superintendent.
"It takes courage to run to be the superintendent in light of our financial situation left by past administrators," Miner said. "I'm glad that she is here. I think she will be a big contributor to help make us a better school district in the state of Florida."
While school board chairwoman Karen Carpenter did not vote for Greene during the superintendent search, she does not doubt her competency.
"If she qualified as a strong contender for superintendent, than she is good enough to be a deputy," Carpenter said. "She knows her stuff."
Greene hit the ground running on her first two days on the job, which consisted of meeting department heads, getting filled in on current initiatives, such as waiting on recommendations from the transition team, and analyzing data.
She hopes to start visiting school campuses next week to meet teachers and principals and receive their input.
Greene added that improving student achievement will always be her No. 1 priority.
"They are the reason why I'm here," Greene said. "Students and the people who stand in front of them and lead are paramount."
Greene says she will not abandon the deputy superintendent position until she sees her work to completion.
"I do not know exactly how long that will be, but my hopes are to help fulfill Mills' vision, whether that is two years or five years," Greene said.
Greene said that experience always increases the chances of being promoted, but she is not concerned about that now.
She is interested in working with instructional services, and she is eager to work with the Manatee County School Board.
"My impression of the school board is that they are working their way through a lot of change," Greene said. "I hope to help ease that transition."
Greene's upbringinghas prepared her for adapting quickly in a new environment. Her father was inthe Air Force, and Greene has lived all over the country.
Greene has methods of de-stressing in what she knows will be a stressful job.
"I am a woman of faith and believe in prayer," Greene said. "It also helps to be around positive people."
Other relaxing activities for Greene include golf, tennis and going to the movies.
Greene is a graduate of Santa Fe Community College, where she attended on a track scholarship. She went on to the University of North Florida after she injured her knee.
Greene has a doctorate from Capella University in Advanced K-12 Education. She is married to James Greene, a financial adviser for First Command.
They have two sons. Albon, 23, attends the University of Central Florida and Joshua, 17, will attend High Point University in North Carolina on a baseball scholarship.
Erica Earl, Herald education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081.