After firing the previous school superintendent for lack of transparency, the Volusia County School Board knew what they wanted from the next superintendent: communication.
The communication refrain propelled Dr. Ronald “Scott” Fritz to the top of a pool of three candidates to replace Tom Russell. The board unanimously voted Nov. 12 to offer Fritz the top school-district job.
For School Board Member Jamie Haynes, who made the motion to appoint Fritz, clear communication was the tipping point between remarkably similar candidates.
“One candidate stood out for me, as far as that candidate answered all the questions. He stayed focused and answered the questions. And I’m sorry, that’s important to me,” Haynes said.
The three final candidates — David Moore, Peter Licata and Fritz — boasted similarly impressive résumés. They are all longtime educators currently serving as assistant supervisors in other counties, and all clearly did their homework on what the Volusia County School Board was looking for.
All the candidates doubled down on those things at a Nov. 7 interview: student achievement, changing the culture in the county, and clearly communicating with the School Board.
The interviews and subsequent reception (with community comment cards) did little to help solidify the decision, board members said.
“It was unfortunate that the public interviews brought a lot more questions. The cards from the forum were 50/50, with all due respect, not much help,” School Board Member Ruben Colón said, to laughter from the audience.
Ultimately, it was Fritz’s clear plan — he passed out a 20-page “Superintendent Entry Plan” with appendices and data analysis after his interview — his intention to immediately begin school visits if selected, and his focus on students that convinced the board.
“I just feel very confident that he can come to Volusia County, and provide us with a change in culture, work at closing our achievement gap. But what I really appreciate is the communication,” Haynes said. “I think it’s something we’ve needed for a while.”
The other members agreed. After the unanimous vote, the board took a brief break to allow Board Chairman Carl Persis to give Fritz the news via telephone.
“What if he says no?” Board Member Linda Cuthbert mused.
Persis reconvened the meeting quickly after making the call.
“Surprise surprise... he accepted! And we have a new superintendent,” Persis said, to applause.
Fritz, who indicated in his public interview that he would begin work right away, is likely to be fully installed by Dec. 2, according to Persis. Interim Superintendent Tim Egnor will function as a consultant during the transition.
Fritz’s salary and benefits will be negotiated. According to its advertisement for the superintendent job, the School Board is prepared to offer a three-year contract with a salary range of $185,000-$225,000, plus competitive benefits.
Russell was earning a $175,000-a-year salary when he was fired in May.