Manatee School Board names Don Hall interim superintendent as Rick Mills exits early

BRADENTON -- Rick Mills ended his tenure early Tuesday as superintendent of the Manatee County School District moving up a July 31 retirement date he had announced earlier.

"I really think that's the best thing to do for all parties involved," Mills said.

The Manatee County School Board took action to have Mills retire immediately and install Don Hall, deputy superintendent of operations, as interim superintendent while the board looks for a permanent hire.

The door is open for the other district deputy superintendent, Diana Greene, to apply for the permanent job. The board doesn't want the interim superintendent named the permanent superintendent.

By a 4-1 vote, the board agreed to pay Mills for five months of his remaining contract -- the most they can pay by law. Board member Charlie Kennedy voted no because he wanted Greene placed in the position immediately.

Hall became interim superintendent effective immediately and was quickly sworn in. A ceremonial swearing-in is set for 11 a.m. Wednesday.

Mills announced his intention in late April to retire

July 31, two years before his district contract ends. Mills said he felt he had lost the support of the board after the November election and couldn't be an effective superintendent without it.

Mills, 60, spent a little more than two years in the district.

The idea to release Mills early was floated by board member Mary Cantrell at the last meeting when he was absent.

Whether an interim superintendent is allowed to apply for the permanent superintendent job was the focus of a school board workshop Tuesday.

Allowing the interim to become superintendent can discourage qualified applicants from applying for the job. The board came to a consensus the interim superintendent should not be allowed to serve as the permanent superintendent.

When asked, Greene said she wants to serve the district and the board, but reminded the board she placed second behind Mills in the last search.

"I love Manatee County and I want to stay here," she said. "I feel as if I serve as interim, I'm losing that opportunity to stay with Manatee County."

Hall said he wasn't interested in the permanent superintendent job right now.

"I really, really appreciate the board's consideration in any role," Hall said. "We will do a great job. I want you to know Dr. Greene has my complete support. I would love to see her as superintendent of this school district."

The auditorium broke into applause after Hall's comment.

One thing is certain, according to Bill Vogel, a Florida School Boards Association representative who led a workshop discussion with the board: The interim must be more than just a placeholder.

"This district right now is poised to be one of the top districts in Florida," Vogel said. "You want someone, I think, that's going to continue the progress that you're making right now."

Kennedy advocated skipping a national search for a superintendent.

"I will make the argument that I don't think we need to do a search. The person who finished in second place is sitting right here," Kennedy said. "All she has added to her resume is two years with us. I don't think we need to reinvent the wheel."

Although almost every board member and public speaker said they supported Greene becoming superintendent, board members preached caution in moving too quickly.

"I don't like to be rushed," said Dave Miner, who was one of two votes for Greene in 2013 when Mills was hired.

Board Chairman Bob Gause said the district should keep all options open.

Hall will likely need another employee to help keeping the district running. Gause said the board will have to provide Hall with extra resources.

Hall, 52, a native of Kentucky, was hired by Mills in May 2013. Sitting in the superintendent seat at the end of the meeting, Hall said he felt humbled.

"I will keep the ship in the right direction until we have a permanent superintendent," he said.

Meghin Delaney, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. Follow her on Twitter @MeghinDelaney.

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