Before she was chosen to lead Manatee County schools, superintendent Diana Greene, a finalist to lead the school district in Duval County, was a runner-up many times.
"Always a bridesmaid, never a bride," she jokingly described her circumstances in 2015.
A former superintendent in Marion County, Greene finished second for the Manatee County superintendent job when Rick Mills was hired in 2013. Mills hired her to be one of this top deputies.
Two years later, she again fell short for superintendent jobs in St. Lucie County and Columbia, S.C.
In 2015, she was named interim superintendent and then superintendent after Mills took early retirement.
As superintendent in Manatee, Greene helped navigate choppy waters of a years-long financial crisis within the School District of Manatee County, faced criticism after a phishing scandal and narrowly won the support of voters to help increase teacher pay.
Now she has another chance at a bigger job.
The Duval County School District, where she had her first teaching job at Mamie Agnes Jones Elementary School, will decide at 4 p.m. Friday if Greene is the best fit to be their superintendent.
Michael Dunsmore, Wayne County Public Schools superintendent in North Carolina, and Houston Independent School District superintendent Erick Pruitt are also in the running, but have each received three votes against them from the seven-person board. Greene had none.
"It's an incredible opportunity to rejoin an organization where you were at the beginning in the educator role," Manatee school board chair Scott Hopes told the Bradenton Herald this week. "To come back as a leader is an exhilarating feeling."
Hopes equated this to how he felt when Gov. Rick Scott appointed him to the University of South Florida board of trustees before he was appointed to fill a vacancy on the school board.
While some Manatee school board members are confident that Greene will leave the district, Andrea Messina, executive director of the Florida School Boards Association, said it's anyone's guess. The organization, part of a national network in 40 states, offers advice and support for school districts needing to hire a superintendent, from offering suggestions for interim superintendent candidates to putting together search teams.
Messina noted that it all comes down to the final interview, which Greene had Thursday morning. The school board members tasked with making this decision might have a clear idea who they want in the end, but could change their mind in an instant.
"If the final interview didn't matter, people wouldn't do them," she said.
On average, superintendents tend to stay in their position for 4.5 years, Messina said. Manatee County has had four superintendents in the past 15 years: Roger Dearing, who led the district from 2003 through 2008 and left after dealing with district financial strife to become executive director of the Florida High School Activities Association; Tim McGonegal, superintendent from 2009 to 2012, who resigned days after a $3.4 million budget deficit was revealed; Mills, who was superintendent from 2013 until his early retirement two years later following unrelenting discord within the board; and Greene, who worked at the Marion County School District for 12 years before Mills brought her on as deputy superintendent.
There also has been a trend of more superintendent turnover in the past three or four years nationally than there was in the decade prior, Messina said.
"We're starting to see superintendents leave the field for private industry because the job is that taxing on them," she said. "Private industry is more appealing."
Greene said during a weekend candidate interview, "It is coming at a time where I feel Manatee is able to stand on its own, and that it is more than me. And now the community has embraced the school district, that they will take ownership of the school district."
Messina agrees with the superintendent's sentiments.
"I think that Manatee, under Dr. Greene's leadership, has certainly improved their credibility around the state," she said. "If she leaves ... she leaves Manatee a better district than maybe she found it."
What goes into the search process?
Hopes said the district does not have a contract already in place for a search firm, but that will be something to discuss should the need arise at Tuesday's workshop and meeting.
The Duval County School Board picked two firms to help them in their search: Tucker Hall, to figure out what qualities of a superintendent would best fit the community, and Hazard Young Attea & Associates, to hone in on a candidate that meets those needs.
"I'm anxious to hear the thoughts of my fellow board members. A couple of them have been through this process before," Hopes said, referring to District 2's Charlie Kennedy and District 4's Dave Miner. "I'd like to learn the experiences they had and the pros and cons, what they would do differently."
Miner, who has seen two superintendents in his tenure on the school board, voted for Greene when she was up against Mills for the superintendent job in 2013. In 2016, Greene was approved to stay as Manatee County schools' superintendent through 2020.
As for who would become interim superintendent? It's another decision the board will have to make. Deputy superintendents Cynthia Saunders and Ron Ciranna would be obvious choices, but Messina noted that school districts have a number of options before them. Boards could choose to use a search firm, find a current staff member ready for the position, use a retired superintendent for short-term leadership or even hire an interim leader from outside education.
This is a "critical decision," Hopes said, and "comes at a difficult time." Three board members — himself, Kennedy and John Colon — are up for re-election and the board is working through growing pains.
Will it cost the district?
When McGonegal left the district, he was paid $17,300 foraccrued vacation and sick time, and a retirement payout of $161,063, which is about $400,000 less than what he would have received had he stayed on another four years.
Embattled former superintendent Mills said that he didn't "think I any longer have the support of the board" and decided to step down summer in 2013, taking himself into early retirement a with a $134,586.71 payout for accrued sick time, unused vacation time and 20 weeks of salary.
But if Greene is chosen for the Duval schools job and accepts the position, Hopes said he did not expect her payout to be as high.
In response to a public records request, the school district said Greene has accrued 45.2 vacation days and 57.63 sick days. Together, this is worth $56,951.58, not including a potential salary payout.