Charlotte school chief search narrowed to 9 candidates

The Daily Sun | By Elaine Allen-Emrich | April 11, 2023

PORT CHARLOTTE — Lemon Bay High School Principal Bob Bedford is one of nine semi-finalists for the role as Charlotte County Public Schools superintendent.

On Tuesday, board members selected their top choices to replace longtime Superintendent Stephen Dionisio, who will retire this summer.

Bedford, who began as a teacher in the district in 1993, was voted semi-finalist status by two board members. He is the only local among 22 applicants.

The contenders, half of whom have doctorate degrees, hail from 12 states.

The salary range for the superintendent is $175,000 to $225,000 for a three-year contract.

Other candidates include Ernie Lozano, executive director of Behavioral Treatment Assessments of Broward County; Jerry Gibson, superintendent of schools in Galveston, Texas; Scott Schneider, CEO of schools in Duval County; Michael Scott Flowers, chief of staff Osceola County schools; Marianne Simon, elementary region superintendent Duval County; Kim D. Moore, assistant superintendent of career innovation programs in Pasco County; Mark K. Vianello, CEO of Marion County Schools; and Peter Licata, regional superintendent of Palm Beach County Schools.

Lozano, Vianello and Licata were selected by all five board members.

All nine semi-finalists have until Tuesday to answer a written question from each board member and three others on video. Those answers will be available to the public on the school district’s website. Then, on April 25, the board will select three to five finalists.

On May 4, the district will bring those finalists to tour schools, meet staff and attend a meet-and-greet with the public.

School Board member Robert Segur said he was concerned some of the candidates applied for multiple superintendent jobs at the same time.

“If they are applying everywhere, are they as committed to Charlotte County to being a superintendent,” he said. “I am not arguing some of their credentials, but they are not just moving here, but moving their families into a very unique environment. This is not Houston. This is not Chicago or Orlando.”

Vice Chair Wendy Atkinson said she was “pleasantly pleased that some applicants rose to the top” of the board’s criteria.

During the School Board workshop Tuesday, members were told what questions shouldn’t be asked of candidates, such as “You seem awfully young to have had so much experience in the field of education; How old are you anyway?; Are you Catholic or Jewish?; or How much money does your spouse make?”

Instead, applicants will be asked about topics like general leadership, student achievement and accountability, instructional leadership, board and community relations, operations, business and finance.

The top candidates will have an extensive background check done before a contract is offered.

On May 9, the School Board is expected to meet at 5:30 p.m. to approve the contract with the new candidate.

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