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New school chief readies for job

MANATEE — Manatee schools’ incoming Superintendent Tim McGonegal is kicking off his new administration with a new slogan, “Believe in Manatee.”

On Monday, he will repeat this mantra to local teachers in a pre-recorded, televised introduction during a school district-wide training day, and roll out his administration’s priorities.

His message and plans are optimistic and honest.

McGonegal, a certified public accountant, acknowledges in the video he has never been a teacher but vows to keep an open ear to their concerns and to maintain a good relationship with them.

As the district faces more budget cuts, he said he holds the education of the district’s children as a top priority.

In keeping with the district’s strategic plan called EdVantage, McGonegal promised to continue with the revamping of the secondary school curriculum.

He also vows to work closely with the three high schools in the district that received a D grade from the Florida Department of Education last school year, and help bump the district’s overall grade from B to A.

“I’m disappointed we still have D schools,” said Jane Pfeilsticker, a school board member. “I want to see that remedied as soon as possible.”

As part of his routine, McGonegal said he will be taking part in regular focus meetings between district administrators and principals at Bayshore, Southeast and Palmetto high schools.

As for the budget cuts for the 2009-10 school year, McGonegal said he is planning to make the process as open as possible.

He plans to assemble a speakers bureau who will take on the road a brochure outlining suggestions for cuts of up to $30 million, which might include the closing of schools, pay cuts and other reduction of services that would affect classrooms. He said he wants to seek as much feedback as he can before bringing recommendations to the school board.

Board members are also aware of the need to make that decision-making process public.

“We need to get input from various educational groups like the teachers union,” said Bob Gause, another school board member. “We have to reach out and get help from everybody in the system and outside the system to make everything work. We have to be inclusive in our approach.”

McGonegal is also faced with the unique task of grooming potential leaders to take the places of many district veterans who will be retiring. “A number of our leadership people are retiring in next 12 months,” he said.

McGonegal will be sworn in as the superintendent at the Jan. 12 school board meeting.

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