MANATEE -- The new members of the school board's citizens advisory group gathered Tuesday and began the process to find the right superintendent to lead the district out of a budget crisis that caused former Superintendent Tim McGonegal to resign and public trust to falter.
They settled into chairs at long, narrow tables to meet the group they will vet candidates as resumes are collected through Jan. 9. Florida School Boards Association Executive Director Wayne Blanton, who has assisted with 76 superintendent searches, was hired by the school board to help guide Manatee County through the process in October.
"It's important that this search be professional, transparent and involve everybody," said Blanton, reminding members that their conversations and notes are public record.
Each member was picked by one of five school board members, but they came for other reasons. They are Manatee County natives, products of its education system, some said Tuesday. They have children in the system, or know other students they care about. Or they have expertise that can help, like Bill Vogel, the former superintendent of Seminole and St. Lucie counties, who was unanimously elected vice chairman of the committee.
This group of a little more than 20 represents the NAACP, Chamber of Commerce, school advisory committees, State College of Florida and Take Stock in Children, among others.
Only five haven't been part of a superintendent search before. Manatee Education Association President Pat Barber has been through four.
They elected Dr. Richard Conard chairman of the committee.
"I'm not sure if this is a curse or what," he says smiling, as he took charge of planning the group's next organizational meeting. He's actively involved in the Manatee Technical Institute.
At 5 p.m. Dec. 18, the group will meet at the district administration building to discuss how they will break down the job of collecting, reading and culling resumes before interviewing and checking the background of the remaining candidates.
On Jan. 30, they will present five candidates to the school board.
Take Stock in Children's Alex Chavez already knows what strengths he wants in a candidate -- a knowledge of finance and community involvement. He references lauded former Manatee County superintendent Dan Nolan.
"So involved with the community -- that was his success," Chavez said. "Finance and community involvement -- that's what the superintendent does."
Katy Bergen, Herald education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081.