Brevard school board chooses Mark Rendell as new superintendent

Florida Today | By Finch Walker | May 2, 2023

The two-month-long search for a new Brevard Public Schools superintendent ended about an hour and a half into Tuesday morning’s board meeting: Local candidate Mark Rendell will lead the district.

The board initially voted at 10:17 a.m., with the motion passing in a 3-2 vote. Board Chair Matt Susin, Megan Wright and Gene Trent voted in favor of Rendell, with Katye Campbell and Jennifer Jenkins voting against him.

Multiple factors went into the vote for Rendell, with Susin, Wright and Trent specifically citing community support.

“This is the person we need. We’re excited as a community,” Trent said. “That’s overwhelmingly what I’m getting.”

Rendell, the only candidate with history in Brevard County, began as a teacher for BPS in 1993 and was later an assistant principal before becoming principal at Titusville High School in 2001, according to his resume.

He left Brevard in 2006 but returned in 2019 as principal for Cocoa Beach Jr./Sr. High, where he currently works. Between those roles, Rendell did a brief stint at a high school in North Carolina and served as a principal and then an assistant and deputy superintendent in St. Lucie County. He served as superintendent for Indian River County Schools from 2015 to 2019.

“I am both honored and humbled by the opportunity to serve Brevard County in this role,” Rendell said in a statement distributed by BPS Spokesperson Russell Bruhn. “I look forward to working with all the members of the school board and the district staff to support the work in the classroom. This will be a team effort, and I believe that if we all work together, we can achieve excellence.”

Both Campbell and Jenkins were adamantly opposed to the selection of Rendell, with both supporting finalist Scott Schneider, chief of schools for Duval County Public Schools.

“I believe that members of this board owe the constituents of this board an apology for spending time and money on a process that clearly lacks integrity, and I quite frankly think you owe the candidates an apology as well,” Jenkins said. “This is another embarrassing moment for our public schools. It’s shameful.”

Campbell said her goal is to be a team player and she will work with the new superintendent, even though she doesn’t believe he was the best option.

“I will absolutely work with him, I’m going to hold him accountable,” she said. “For the good of our community, I will absolutely support him because that is what needs to happen in order for us to move forward.”

Jenkins added she would also support Rendell and wants nothing more than progress for the district.

The board held a second ceremonial vote in an attempt to get a 5-0 vote. Every board member but Jenkins voted in favor of Rendell.

Public support for Rendell at Tuesday’s meeting was divided. Six people spoke during the public comments section of the meeting, with three in favor of Rendell and three against him, citing concerns about his approachability and his awareness of learning disabilities.

During discussion, Wright argued for support of Rendell, saying the majority of feedback regarding the three candidates was about him through emails and a public survey.

Campbell disputed this, saying he simply had the most feedback in general on the survey, but that it was “polarized.” Another candidate had nearly as much feedback and it was mostly positive, she added.

Rendell will be the third superintendent since the board ousted former superintendent Mullins in November. The newly elected board discussed the possibility of not renewing Mullins’ contract, and Mullins stepped down before it could be brought to a vote.

Following Mullins’ resignation, Robert Schiller was chosen as interim superintendent and took on the role in January. However, after a public falling-out that involved an internal memo from Schiller blasting the board’s superintendent search timeline and “immaturity” during board meetings, he was placed on leave during a March board meeting. Acting superintendent Sue Hann was appointed immediately following his removal as the nationwide search for a new leader was conducted.

The search for a superintendent brought in 33 candidates from around the country at the end of March and was narrowed down to 11 Floridian semifinalists April 4. From there, the board chose four finalists at a meeting on April 18: Rendell, Schneider, Jason Wysong of Seminole County and John Stratton of Hernando County.

Stratton withdrew from the finalist pool on April 25 due to a controversy in Hernando County with a teacher who reportedly made threatening comments about students.

While this superintendent search brought in far fewer applicants than a 2015 search, which brought in 106 applicants, both Katye Campbell and Matt Susin said they didn’t see the smaller applicant pool as a Brevard-specific issue. They brought up Charlotte County, whose superintendent is retiring and where the search drew only 20 applicants.

Though the board has yet to set a date for Rendell to start his tenure, it will take place in the heat of a variety of issues: among them, an onslaught of challenged books as the book review committee reforms; potential changes to discipline policies and procedures following an audit; and bus driver and teacher shortages.

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