BRADENTON After two and a half hours of debate during a special meeting Tuesday morning, the Manatee School Board voted 4-1 to offer the district superintendent position to Dr. Jason Wysong, the current Deputy Superintendent of Seminole County Public Schools.
The board had previously narrowed its search to three candidates Wysong, current Manatee deputy superintendent of operations Doug Wagner, and Duval County s Scott Schneider, who serves in an administrative position just below deputy superintendent in the sixth largest district in the state.
""I am honored by today s vote and excited to join the Manatee County community,"" Wysong said in a statement put out by the district. ""Thank you to the school board members for their thoughtful deliberation and support. I enjoyed meeting so many employees, parents, and community members during my visit last week. I look forward to working with all stakeholders to ensure that students in Manatee County are academically successful and ready for their futures!""
The board labored with the decision with multiple board members stressing that they were not a hundred percent comfortable with the options on the table. Early in the meeting, board member Mary Foreman made a motion to extend the process through the end of the month, noting that some promising candidates had dropped out of contention over concerns that board members were reluctant to hire an administrator from out of state and/or that an internal candidate had a leg up on the competition.
Board Chair Chad Choate seconded the motion for discussion but when it was clear that the movement had no other support, the motion and second were withdrawn.
Board member Cindy Spray said that she was not completely satisfied with any of the candidates and motioned to have the FSBA an industry group that had been contracted to assist with the search reach out to Tim Bargeron Chief Financial Officer for the Seminole County School District and a former deputy superintendent in Manatee County and determine whether he was willing to return to the district as a one-year interim. Bargeron had applied for the position before withdrawing his name.
Choate seconded the motion for the sake of discussion. Board member Gina Messenger said that she truly believed that if board members voted for the motion they would be bypassing the entire process that had been promised to the public and, in doing so, would be insulting the community, as well as the students and employees of the district. When it again became clear that there was no support for the motion, it too was withdrawn.
Board member Richard Tatem pushed fellow members to make a selection on Tuesday. Tatem felt that the timing was right, that they had advertised the position widely, and said that he did not feel that extending the process would yield a significantly different result.
Tatem was the first to make it clear that Wysong was his top pick. He said that while he very much liked Mr. Wagner, he felt that he was in ""the right position"" as the district's deputy of superintendent of operations. Tatem felt that while Scott Schneider was perhaps the most polished candidate and had excelled in the candidate video and public interview, Wysong s talent and ""humble confidence during the one-on-one interviews had won him over.
Tatem said that while he felt Schneider would mature into a top-tier candidate, he could use a bit more ""seasoning, noting that he had yet to serve as a deputy superintendent and had only recently been elevated to a cabinet-level position. He also noted that Wysong was not only a deputy but had oversight over both curriculum and operations, as well as considerable experience with budgeting.
Mrs. Messsenger, who had initially seemed to be in agreement with Mr. Tatem, having described Mr. Wysong as ""deeply intelligent"" and a ""careful decision maker,"" then made it clear that Mr. Wagner was her first pick, favoring someone who knew the district and could ""hit the ground running.""
At this point, Mr. Choate made it clear that he would also be comfortable selecting Wagner. However, both Spray and Foreman then indicated that while they liked Mr. Wagner, they too did not feel that he was the right fit for superintendent and would favor Wysong if the choice was between the three finalists only.
The consensus of the board might be best summarized as follows: Mr. Schneider has a charismatic personality and excellent communication skills that would undoubtedly endear him to the district and community, but he has the least amount of relevant experience and remained ""under a cloud"" following a recent scandal in Duval County. Mr. Wagner is an excellent deputy superintendent who will continue to benefit the district but is better suited to that role, lacking the experience on the curriculum side of the equation that the other candidates offer. Dr. Wysong, while not offering the same level of intangibles as Schneider, brought the best overall skill set, relevant experience across the broad spectrum of duties a superintendent is charged with, and, overall, best represents the current needs of the district.
The final vote to offer the position to Dr. Wysong was 4-1 with Choate dissenting. The board chair and attorney will now begin negotiations with Dr. Wysong and bring back a draft contract for board approval.
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