Manatee school board to ask David Gayler to serve as interim superintendent

MANATEE — Former district assistant superintendent of support services David Gayler may be the county’s next interim superintendent, at least the school board of Manatee County hopes so.

The school board voted Monday to approach Gayler about overseeing the school district until a permanent superintendent can be found. If Gayler officially accepts the position, he will replace current interim superintendent Bob Gagnon, who will continue to fill the position until the interim begins.

“We’re looking to heal this community and take our district where it needs to go,” said board member Julie Aranibar, who said Gayler’s familiarity with the district and teachers’ union makes him an ideal candidate.

Board members said they wanted an interim superintendent with more superintendent experience and wanted to have Gagnon instead focus on his current position as assistant superintendent of teaching and learning.

Gayler will be paid $171,000, the same salary as former superintendent Tim McGonegal received.

Gayler was appointed assistant superintendent in 2001 under former superintendent Dan Nolan, before becoming superintendent of Charlotte County the next year. He retired in 2010.

Gagnon Monday presented a plan on how he will handle his duties as assistant superintendent of teaching and learning for his short tenure as interim.

This past Tuesday, the board met with Florida School Boards Association Executive Director Wayne Blanton, who outlined all the decisions the board will have to make on how it wants to conduct a search for the next superintendent. Blanton had mentioned at that time that Gayler, as well as Arthur Johnson, former superintendent in Palm Beach County and Bill Vogel, former superintendent in St. Lucie and Seminole counties, had expressed interest in filling the interim position.

On Monday, the board also voted to enlist the help of the school boards association in the search, which caps its costs at $8,000.

The board also approved the law firm that the district audit committee selected at a meeting Monday morning. Tampa-based law firm Trenam Kemker will help select an audit firm that can determine the cause of a reported $3.5 million deficit in the 2012-13 school budget.

Some concerns surfaced about a comment school board attorney John Bowen said in an earlier audit meeting — that the board does not have subpoena power over McGonegal or former assistant superintendent of district services Jim Drake when conducting an audit investigation because they are no longer employed by the district. Current employers can be subpoenaed during the process.

The board would have such power if it conducted an administrative hearing. Former district employees could voluntarily participate in the audit investigation, Bowen said.

“We don’t know if there is going to be a refusal,” Bowen said. “If there is no cooperation, that will be indicated in (the audit) report.”The board promised to have the law firm look into the issue.

The board meeting stalled when it came time to pass the $43 million tentative district educational facilities plan, a five-year spending plan on big expenditures such as new repairs and renovations and on making payments on old debt.

Much of this year’s capital expenditures go to debt service, said Finance Director Angela Fraser. Larger projects are scheduled for later years and can be amended.

“You can add any project. You can cancel any project,” Gagnon said. “We can prioritize.”

Board members Aranibar, Karen Carpenter and Barbara Harvey initially expressed a desire to delay passing the plan, though the state deadline is Oct. 1.

“We need to put breaks on some of these expenditures because we don’t know where we are,” Carpenter said. “I have no confidence in the numbers.”

Aranibar said her issue came from a concern about validity, not a lack of commitment to school repairs.

“I would rather stop now and verify things,” Aranibar said. “I’m not prepared to move forward on this.”

After a 10-minute recess, the board passed the plan 4-1, with Aranibar as the lone member opposed.

At the meeting, the board also voted to fire Anne J. Wampole, an ESE Bayshore high school teacher who officials said came to school intoxicated.

The board plans to hold public hearings in October to hear what the public feels the qualifications for the new superintendent should be.

Katy Bergen, Herald education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081.