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No Surprise: Flagler School Board Votes 5-0 To Appoint Jacob Oliva Superintendent

| February 4, 2014

Jacob Oliva, who was appointed Flager County's new superintendent, during his job interview last week. (c FlaglerLive)

Jacob Oliva, who was appointed Flager County’s new superintendent, during his job interview last week. (c FlaglerLive)

As prophesies go, the Flagler County School Board had not kept that one a secret: its members made clear last fall that Jacob Oliva, the assistant superintendent and acting superintendent since Thanksgiving, was their man for the job. Any challenger would have to be extremely convincing to overcome the confidence he’s enjoyed from the board.

Only 19 challengers applied–not counting those who were disqualified for not following directions–when the board advertised the position around the holidays, and only two made the interview list: Oliva and Pamela Tapley, an assistant superintendent at Osceola County schools. In the end (as it had been at the beginning), it was almost all Oliva.

The board voted 5-0 Tuesday evening to give him the superintendent’s job. He replaces Janet Valentine, who was on the job a few months short of four years until a stroke ended her tenure just before Thanksgiving. The announcement was made just before 6:45 p.m., after board members voted by non-secret, written ballot. The board attorney tabulated the results as the room fell silent for a long pause. She then handed the results to each board member before the actual announcement.

The tally was actually 4-1: Board Chairman Andy Dance, John Fischer, Sue Dickinson and Trevor Tucker voted for Oliva. Colleen Conklin voted for Tapley. Tapley sat among the audience. She was smiling faintly before the vote. Her expression did not change as the tally was read.

Immediately after the vote, Conklin said the vote to actually appoint Oliva superintendent should be unanimous. And so it was.

Board Attorney Kristy Gavin will negotiate the contract with Oliva.

Dickinson wanted to pay Oliva more than his current salary for taking on the superintendent’s job before the actual July 1 start date kicks in. Oliva declined the proposal. “I will refuse any stipend,” he said, “and if the board feels compelled to give me any stipend I would request that it donates it to the mentor program.”

Oliva and Gavin will be negotiating a three-year contract, with a pay range starting at $125,000, but with an unclear ceiling at this point. Valentine was making around $150,000. Oliova’s salary may be somewhat less, based on a “step” process that takes experience into account. Oliva is currently making $103,886.

What few surprises accompanied the process were in the rapid and various twists the hiring process took since December, the displeasures of the search committee, which complained about the compressed schedule and grumbled about its more cosmetic role, and the dearth of applicants once the job was posted.

Conklin alluded to some of those issues in her closing statement.

“I know that Jacob will do a wonderful job,” Conklin said, explaining her dissenting vote. She commended Gavin and the search committee, “but I’m not going to lie and say that I’m not disappointed in this process, and I am grateful that it is over.” She said the district had once belonged to the Florida School Board Association, which handles such things as superintendent searches, but had to cut its ties to save money. Conklin said she hopes the membership can be renewed. “Moving forward I see nothing but great things for Flagler County,” she said, “so I hope you understand my position and my vote.”

Oliva had stepped out of the room when the board members voted. He walked back in to a standing ovation. He took the same seat he’d been occupying since November.

“It’s time to move on to our next item on the agenda,” Dance said, after summing up his own thoughts on the process, which he said was very valuable, down to showing the leadership visions of the two finalists.

Valentine was due to retire on June 30, she announced that she would not be returning to work, as she’d devote her time to rehabilitation. Superintendent Janet Valentine chose Oliva as her assistant superintendent in 2012. Hers was among the rousing endorsements–by way of a recommendation letter-for Oliva’s appointment as her successor.

“The community will be watching,” Myra Middle-ton-Valentine, a member of the search committee and a former high administrator in the district told the board during the public comment period, “not in a critical way. We’re here to assist and to be involved.”

During the workshop that preceded the meeting, the board discussed previous ways that the board had appointed its superintendents. It was done with individual ballots. They replicated the method tonight. They wrote their name on their ballot, and place a 1 or a 2 next to the names of the two candidates on the ballot (Oliva and Tapley). The results were then announced.

The school board’s meeting room is usually quite full at the beginning of meetings, mostly because school staff and students show up for spotlight presentations that highlight some of the district’s greater achievements. When that segment of the meeting is over, the board chairman usually invites audience members to leave, if they wish to, recognizing that the rest of the meeting can be taking on any audience’s patience. Tuesday evening, the room was three-quarters full. It was still half-full when the appointment was announced.

Toward the end of the meeting, Tucker, frugal down to his words, had this to say to Oliva: “Congratulations, Jacob. Thank you for not taking any more money.”

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19 Responses for “No Surprise: Flagler School Board Votes 5-0 To Appoint Jacob Oliva Superintendent”

  1. Bethechange says:

    Congrats, Jacob!

  2. vikki hardley says:

    The selection of Jacob Olivia as Superintendent of Schools should come as surprise to no one. If you read between the lines of the boards statements since the process began one will notice that Mr Olivias appointment was certain. So now that the school board has wasted another $5,000.00 of OUR TAX DOLLARS on this sham Superintendent search, and also money of the other more qualified candidates to come to interview for the position I propose that Andy Dance and his short sighted board repay us for the cost of the “search”. I also plan on working diligently in the future to unseat our school board in its entirety. The do NOT represent the citizens of Flagler county in any way, shape, or form. You can’t improve a system when you continue to maintain the same path as previously followed.

    [Correction: the search ended up costing $1,200, not $5,000. The $5,000 was the total set aside for the search.–FL]

    • Will says:

      Vikki, you don’t have your facts right. FlaglerLive corrected the cost, but as I understand it, the school board did NOT pay travel costs for the one other candidate who was interviewed. May I respectfully suggest that you try to understand what really happened before you flame out and pledge to unseat the entire board?

  3. Justin Case says:

    What a bad choice! I think the people of Flagler county should have had the vote! Just wait for the dust to settle! His true colors will show through and you will know he was a bad choice!

    • Good girl says:

      He is an amazing person… He use to be a principle for a school in flagler county, you dont know him so stop judging people!!

    • J. says:

      I know him personally, and he’s an excellent choice. A very intelligent individual, with great leadership abilities and a love for what he does. He also is a caring individual. If you sat down with him for ten minutes you’d see he is a great person who honestly cares about education. There are teachers and administrators who do not, but Jacob truly cares.

  4. Anonymous says:

    So who will become asst super how?

    • I/M/O says:

      From what I hear he is rally a very intelligent, qualified and energetic guy. That’s why the former Superintendent Janet Valentine chose him to begin with. She knew she was nearing retirement so she was getting him ready. Unfortunately she got very ill and the process had to be moved up a bit.

      But shouldn’t we all be grateful our school district plans for such contingencies.

      From the reports here at FlaglerLive his public interview before the board showed him to be completely ready to assume this position.

      Who will be the next Assistant Superintendent? Tell me who the next Jacob Olivia is and we can answer that question.

  5. JoeJoe says:

    Congrats to the best man for the job.

  6. KMedley says:

    A well deserved appointment to a well deserving man. Congrats, Mr. Oliva!

  7. PCer says:

    So who will become the new Asst Super?

  8. pastor jones says:

    I agree with vikki and will work to unseat the entire board.

  9. concerned citizen says:

    So the board spends a total of $1,200.00 for the most important job of the largest employer in Flagler County and the person accountable for our children’s education and get one other candidate that they approve of and feel like they made the best decision for our community. Is this a reality show? Can the board members look in the mirror and believe that they actually conducted this process professionally and with the public’s interest? The new assistant will be Vern Orndoff his best friend. Anyone who knows Oliva understands that if you praise him and don’t offer fresh new ideas but follow his without question you will be rewarded. Those who don’t well start looking for a new job.

  10. Mike says:

    No doubt Jacob was qualified, but the School Board is not; they bumbled this and handled it very poorly from the public view. Good luck to you Jacob, make the children and citizens of Flagler proud, to the Board, you should pack your bags because Flagler County residents would be foolish to vote any of you back into office.

  11. Justin Case says:

    The wool must be really thick? I cant see!

  12. Unionized says:

    D I S G U S T I N G

  13. sue says:

    Same Old stuff . Just a different day in palm Coast. Nothing ever changes !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  14. time out says:

    I have watched as a parent, this man move through our school district from teacher to dean to principal, so on and so forth. he has moved very quickly through this process, at a positive rate. to me as abystander, i see that as a man who has a mission. he knew there was change needed and the only way changes can be made that he envisioned were from the top. so he set his eyes right on it… everyone deserves at least a chance.

    unseat the board? why? it was members of this community who raised such a ruckus over the initial appointment which demanded a committee be created, not the board. your neighbors spent that $1200.00 and the board was forced to sign the check. Those same people who demended a search be made, wasted the time, efforts and energy of the others who applied. I hope you are satisifed in your lack of respect for others.

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