The School District of Manatee County may seek an outsider to serve as the permanent superintendent after Diana Greene leaves for Duval County on July 1.
Greene attended her last board meeting on Tuesday, when board members voted to accept a draft contract for Cynthia Saunders, who is set to serve as the interim superintendent. She currently works as Manatee's deputy superintendent of instructional services.
Circuit Judge Brian Iten will oversee a swearing-in ceremony for Saunders on Thursday afternoon.
On Tuesday, several board members shared the same question: if Saunders were able to apply for the permanent superintendent job, would other applicants be deterred from vying for the position? Their discussion led board attorney James Dye to form an updated draft contract, and the board voted 4-1 to execute the agreement after Saunders' reviews and approves the final draft.
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Board member Dave Miner, who wanted more time to review the updated draft, cast the dissenting vote.
"Ms. Saunders shall not be entitled to apply for or accept appointment as the new Superintendent," the updated draft states.
Greene first suggested the provision at a past school board meeting. On Tuesday, Miner brought his own draft contract to the meeting, adding to the conversation and influencing the new proposal.
In response, board chairman Scott Hopes pointed to a recent comment by Andrea Messina, executive director of the Florida School Boards Association. She recommended the board keep its options open and not prevent the interim superintendent from applying for a permanent position.
Board member John Colon said he would rather the district not consider any candidates that have served in the district.
"I want new people — new blood," he said. "I don't want to retread."
While the new draft added language, it also omitted or rolled back several sections from the first proposal. Both set Saunders' salary at $15,500 per month.
The original proposal offered Saunders up to 10 percent of her base salary as a bonus for completing specific goals after one fiscal year. Though the proposed salary is more than the pay she receives as deputy superintendent, it amounts to less than Greene's current salary, Hopes said.
That section was removed from the updated contract. The original proposal also afforded Saunders severance pay equal to 60 days' salary if the district were to terminate her contract without cause after 180 days. The amount of severance pay was changed to 30 days in the new draft.
And both the district or Saunders can terminate the contract with 30 days notice, as opposed to 45 days notice that was required in the original proposal.
It remains unclear who will eventually fill Saunders' deputy superintendent position. A section of the original contract, which was removed, said the board has no authority to place her back into the role. It also said the board would endorse Saunders when the district seeks a new deputy superintendent.
Vice Chair Gina Messenger said the idea of a recommendation made her uncomfortable. It may, she said, put inappropriate pressure on the next superintendent, who can make the decision based on his or her own knowledge.
The board also recognized Greene's accomplishments as superintendent of Manatee's schools. She in turn thanked the board members, county residents and her husband.
"This community has opened their arms and they have supported me," she said. "They have given me feedback, whether I wanted it or not. They have encouraged me. They have given their critical eye. It really does not matter what role they played; the only thing that matters is we are doing this for the students of the School District of Manatee County."