BRADENTON -- Don Hall was formally sworn in Wednesday morning as the Manatee County School District interim superintendent.
With his nerves getting the best of him, Hall tried to raise his left hand instead of his right and fumbled over some words in the oath given by Judge Thomas Gallen Jr., but he shook it off.
"I think we've gotten through one of the hardest parts of the interim process -- reading the oath," Hall joked to the crowd of Manatee County School Board members, district employees and media gathered in the board room.
Wednesday marked Hall's second anniversary with the district. He was hired in May 2013 by then-Superintendent Rick Mills to serve as deputy superintendent of operations overseeing the business and financial side of the district.
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Hall said he wants to build on Mills' successes with a goal of unity. His guiding
philosophy: teaching and learning.
"Children first, politics second," he said.
Since it's unclear how long Hall will serve as interim superintendent, he said he plans to stay in his current office. In an interview after the swearing-in ceremony, Hall said he supports Diana Greene, deputy superintendent of instruction, as the next superintendent.
"Dr. Greene is an exceptional leader," he said.
Hall said he has three priorities:
Close out the academic year;
Close out the fiscal year while simultaneously opening a new fiscal year; and
Start the new school year.
It all happens "back-to-back-to-back," he said.
Hall said he recognizes the district needs to build trust with the community to have long-term financial stability.
The district may ask the community for more money through three ballot initiatives in 2016:
Float a $150 million bond;
Extend the sales tax, and;
Go above the state limit on the millage rate.
All three initiatives require voter approval.
The district may also reinstate impact fees, which do not require a community vote.
"We have to prove we are an organization that the community can put their trust in," he said.
Hall said he hopes to continue his open-door policy, which applies to all employees and community members.
"I believe I'm here to serve," he said. "You can't do that behind closed doors."
Hall said he is not interested in the full-time superintendent position in Manatee County. In approving Hall's appointment during Tuesday's school board meeting, it was agreed whoever serves as interim superintendent would not be allowed to apply for the permanent position. The reasoning: It could keep qualified applicants from applying if they believe the interim superintendent has an advantage.
To juggle his positions, Hall said he will consider reorganization. Chief level officers who report to him as deputy superintendent may become part of the superintendent cabinet so they can advise him directly.
Marilyn Coughlin, Hall's executive assistant and the district Support Employee of the Year, said Hall will do well in the role.
"He is articulate and calm in his approach. He is very fair," she said. "I think he'll serve our district and our students well."
Meghin Delaney, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. Follow her on Twitter @MeghinDelaney.