Orange school board picks 2 finalists to interview for next superintendent

Orlando Sentinel | By Leslie Postal | June 7, 2022

The Orange County School Board will interview two finalists as it searches for the next superintendent for Central Florida’s largest school district.

The board unanimously agreed Tuesday that it wanted to interview Maria Vazquez, currently the deputy superintendent for Orange County Public Schools, and Peter Licata, a regional superintendent for the Palm Beach County school district.

Those interviews — some open to the public — and a public “meet and greet” will be held June 21 and June 22. The board hopes on June 28 to select a replacement for Superintendent Barbara Jenkins, who is retiring later this year after a decade on the job.

Licata and Vazquez were among three semifinalists the school board on May 25 asked to provide written and video responses to questions. Board members said Rafaela Espinal, an assistant superintendent for the New York City school system, had an impressive record but lacked the “breadth of experience” of the other two and knowledge of public education in Florida.

“They all have great qualities, but Dr. Vazquez and Dr. Licata, I think, are in a better position and ready to take that superintendent role on,” said board member Pam Gould.

Both Licata and Vazquez have worked for their districts for decades, moving up from teachers to principals to district administrators.

“We need a superintendent who can come in ready,” agreed board member Vicki Felder.

Board members also said Licata and Vazquez both understand the issues and challenges that face Florida school districts.

“I believe this candidate needs to be familiar with Florida policy and law,” added board member Linda Kobert. “We can’t afford to have someone learning on the job.”

The board will conduct public interviews of both candidates on the afternoon of June 21. Each candidate will be asked the same questions during those sessions, which will be broadcast like other school board meetings.

That evening, the school district will host a “meet and greet” where the public can hear brief remarks from both finalists, get a chance to speak with them and later share their views with the school board.

The next day, each of the eight board members will hold private interviews with the two finalists.

The board is scheduled to select a new superintendent at its 4:45 p.m. meeting on June 28.

It expects to offer its next superintendent a three-year contract with an annual salary of $295,000 to $350,000.

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