BARTOW — Polk County Public Schools currently has 19 contenders for the superintendent of schools position, ranging from the former chancellor of Washington, D.C., Public Schools to a retired Army Ohio National Guard colonel and former school superintendent, to the current Haines City High School principal.
The list will be reviewed by more than three dozen community members to see which candidates rise to the level of leadership necessary to run one of the largest school districts in the country, with more than 100,000 students and 13,000 employees.
The district continues to receive applications, with a Jan. 31 deadline at midnight for the final applications to be submitted.
Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd announced her retirement in May. Her successor is scheduled to be selected at the April 27 board meeting.
The applicants so far are:
• Wayne Alexander, Ed.D. — Serves as a school principal (PK-8) in “the largest multi-cultural school in Connecticut.” He is also the former Hernando County schools superintendent, serving between 2007 and 2009. He has served as a teacher and administrator for 34 years.
• Adam Lane — The Haines City High School and Haines City International Baccalaureate principal, a position he has held for the last six years. He also helped develop and implement an IB program at Largo High School, which aided in the “consecutive D school” to move to an A grade within two years. At HCHS, he has lowered all discipline referrals by 31%, while increasing the attendance rate and improving the graduation rate by 12% in a four-year period.
• Claude Tiller, Jr., Ed.D. — The school improvement grant facilitator and school improvement monitor for the Michigan Department of Education. He led a low-performing high school out of the bottom 5% academically in the state for the first time in 25 years. He is also a former director of finance and operations consultant at Oakland Academy of Media and Technology, along with being a district turnaround specialist.
• Julio Acevedo, Ed.D. — The human resources director, transportation director, benefits coordinator and risk manager for the Lake Wales Charter Schools District. He also has experience in Title I schools and applications. Before that, he taught kindergarten, Spanish and third grade at Polk Avenue Elementary. He grew up in Puerto Rico and has helped facilitate Spanish-language meetings for parents.
• Ami Rudd, Ed.D. — She earned her doctorate in education in 2019, focusing on special education with a specialization in mathematics learning disabilities. Her most recent work experience is that of director of student services at KIPP in Colorado, a network of six free college-preparatory public charter schools. She is the former director of Emerald City School and Clinic, where she served for 18 months. She was principal at Torah Day School of Seattle for a year.
• Stuart Albaugh — Retired in 2018 as the superintendent of the Harmony Area School District in Westover, Pennsylvania. Before that, he was a school administrator for 25 years in Maryland and Pennsylvania, and a social studies teacher. He was most recently the principal of Adelphoi Education Inc.in Latrobe, Pennsylvania.
• James Parla, Ed.D. — Earned his doctorate in education from Columbia University, where he is an adjunct professor at Columbia’s Teachers College. Starting in 1997, he was the superintendent of schools in four districts in New Jersey and New York, with enrollment of 2,600 12,400. He has also served as a teacher, building administrator, school board member and corporate executive.
• Michele McClung — The director of teaching, learning and assessment for the largest school district in Alabama (Mobile) with 55,000 students. She has also served as an assistant principal and principal.
• Philip Capobianco — He is a Canadian school principal and has served as an Ottawa Catholic School Board committee member.
• Earl Metzler, Ed.D. — Superintendent of Schools from 2012 to 2020 in a New Hampshire district with more than 5,000 students and 800 staff. He is a consultant with the Hampstead School District, helping to oversee a split in the district. He also has been the North Quincy High School principal and a consultant with Massachusetts Department of Education.
• William Ott, Doctorate in Missions, Evangelism and Church Growth from Newburgh Theological Seminary — He is the director of special education/504 in the Ore City, Texas, School District. He formerly owned his own insurance agency. He has also been an assistant principal, teacher and coach with the Ore City Schools District, a senior pastor at Burkeville Baptist Church, and manager of a car dealership.
• Stephen Stohla — He has been a superintendent of schools in the Alliance City School District, the Brookfield Local School District, and the Youngstown City School District, which have populations ranging from 1,100 to 5,500 students. He eliminated debt at all three districts while increasing student academic achievement. He also served for 30 years in the Ohio Army National Guard, retiring as a colonel. He was the chief of installations for the Army National Guard Bureau, overseeing a billion-dollar budget and all construction and maintenance of all facilities in the 50 United States and four U.S. territories. He received two Legion of Merit awards, the highest non-combat recognition awarded by the Army.
• Antwan Wilson — Has served as superintendent or chancellor in Washington, D.C.; Denver, Colorado; and Oakland, California. He has also been an assistant superintendent, high school principal, middle school principal, teacher and university professor. He served as a commissioner on the Aspen Institute’s National Commission for Social, Emotional and Academic Development. He resigned as the D.C. chancellor in 2018 after allegedly bypassing the city’s school lottery system to transfer his daughter from one high school to another. “I have learned a great deal from that experience. I have reflected deeply, and I welcome the chance to discuss that experience and my other experiences fully…” He is currently a doctoral candidate at Creighton University in Interdisciplinary Leadership, a distinguished visiting professor of education at Nebraska Wesleyan University, and CEO of School Wise Education Consulting.
• Joram Rejouis, Ed.D. — He is assistant superintendent of Essex Regional School District in New Jersey, a job he has held for 10 years. He has been a supervisor, principal and director, with experience in special education and curriculum development, and a supervisor of education for the New Jersey Juvenile Justice Commission in the late 1990s.
• Raymond Bryant, Jr., Ed.D. — He is a leadership consultant for the Georgia Leadership Institute for School Improvement and has served as a Henry and Douglas County teacher, administrator, district leader and assistant superintendent of administrative services. He was chief operations officer for Henry County Schools.
• Sherene Carpenter, Ed.D. — She works as an attendance coordinator in an Alabama public school systema and was a 2015 semifinalist for Birmingham superintendent. She has lead four schools from academic failure as a turnaround principal in Birmingham Public Schools and was named principal of the year by the Birmingham PTA.
• Christopher Burr — He is superintendent of schools in the Del Norte School District in Southwest Colorado. Has also served as principal at Manitou Springs, Colorado, Middle School.
• Robert Vanderloop, Ed.D. — He is director of special education and a Pre-K through eighth grade principal in Independence, Wisconsin. Has also served as an elementary school principal in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, and a teacher.
• Robby Goodman, Ed.D. — He is assistant superintendent of Middlebury Community Schools, Indiana, and an adjunct professor. He has been an award-winning high school assistant principal and middle school principal, along with a special education teacher.
Polk Education Association teachers union President Stephanie Yocum and retired U.S. Air Force Col. Terry Coney are on the citizens committee.
Yocum said choosing the next superintendent is an important decision for the community because the superintendent isn’t just the top executive officer for the school district, but also the face of Polk County Public Schools and the liaison with community and business partners.
“Through my voice and education experience, I will be able to represent the needs and interests of the 9,000 instructional staff, paraeducators, and educational support personnel currently working for Polk County Public Schools,” Yocum said. “I am looking for a superintendent who will commit to a culture of collaboration and true partnership with our union. Our working conditions are student learning conditions, and everyone ultimately has the same goal — to provide a high-quality education for all students who enter our schools.”
Yocum said the success of students, staff, and schools “starts at the top with a personable, driven, outgoing, focused, compassionate, courageous superintendent who will advocate for Polk County Public Schools at the highest level necessary.”
Coney said he wants someone who is a great communicator, team builder, public relations pro and a unifier, someone who “can foster a collaborative relationship with teachers, parents, students, support staff and administrators. For the district to be successful, all of these parties must work together.”
In addition, he is hoping to see someone who “is a leader, not just a manager and must be a people person,” with prior experience as a superintendent or assistant superintendent.
Finally, he would like a superintendent “that has experience working with a diverse student population and sees diversity as a positive. With the growing number of Hispanic students in the county, I wouldn’t be opposed to a superintendent of Hispanic heritage.
You can see the full application packets of each candidate at the Polk County Public Schools Super Search page: https://polkschoolsfl.com/supersearch.
Ledger reporter Kimberly C. Moore can be reached at [email protected] or 863-802-7514. Follow her on Twitter at @KMooreTheLedger.
Citizens Screening Committee members:
Doris Moore Bailey, Ashley Bell-Barnett, Naomi Boyer, Lisa Burke, Gary Clark, Craig Collins, Terry Coney, Susan Copeland, Deric C. Feacher, Sarah Frederick, Angela Garcia-Falconetti, Tiffany Gozdur, David Hallock, Dani Higgins, Deloris Johnson, Sheriff Grady Judd, Florida Southern College President Anne Kerr, Travis Keyes, Eddie Lake, Kristine Lally, Kim Long, Sean Mallot, Bishop Willie Mincey, Larry Mitchell, Anna Rivera, Laura Rodriguez, John Ruffin, Christine Samuel, Martha Santiago, Justin Sharpless, Cory Skeates, Howe Wallace, Kyle Windham, Katie Worthington, Marcus Wright, Stephanie Yocum