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Superintendent’s Job Draws Just 41 Applicants, And A Few Stand-Outs After All

| March 20, 2017

superintendent schools flagler

Time to wait. (© FlaglerLive)

Last Updated: March 21

The applicants’ pool for Flagler County School Superintendent totaled 41 by the time the application window closed at midnight Friday. As often happens with applications for jobs of this nature, some of the strongest candidates waited until the last minute to apply.

When the school board and its advisory committee meet for the first time Tuesday to examine the batch, they will not be faced with an embarrassment of dazzles. But they won;t lack for good candidates, wither.

Based on an examination of the 41 applications the school district made available by Tuesday morning (see below), the council will see few applicants with experience as superintendents. Out of four current public school superintendents who did apply, the combined enrollment in all four of their districts is less than 8,000 students, and three of the four applicants are in districts of fewer than 2,000 students. The Flagler school district’s enrollment is around 13,000, and is expected to grow.

Scott Woolstenhulme, an assistant superintendent, applied from the Bonneville Joint School District 93 in Idaho, which on paper looks similar to the Flagler school district, with 12,000 students and similar goals.

There are a few additional former superintendents, though one, Constance Jones, resigned under jarring circumstances and questions about students’ academic achievements in a Colorado school district a bit larger than Flagler’s. Another, Michael Dodge, now a resident of Port Orange, retired from a 1,700-student district in Michigan. Steve Benton of Cottondale, Fla., retired from the 7,500-student Jackson County school system as superintendent in 2012.

Applicant Charlie Van Zant Jr. was the elected superintendent of schools in Clay County for one term, between 2012 and 2016, but his term was jarred by controversy after he was openly accused by a former principal in the district of ignoring warnings that some special-education students had been deliberately mis-categorized (special education students command a greater share of state funding). He denied the accusations and accused the former principal of being a disgruntled employee. The Clay County School Board in December asked state education officials to review the findings of an investigation into the matter.

Fourteen of the applicants are from Florida, several of them living in the state in retirement, and only two applicants from Flagler: Vernon Orndorff, whom former Superintendent Bill Delbrugge hired as principal at Indian Trails Middle School before former Superintendent Janet Valentine elevated him to the district administration; and Phyllis Edwards, who rose through the ranks in Flagler County schools from teacher to director of elementary education to assistant superintendent before her departure in 2003 to become the superintendent of the city schools of Decatur, Ga., a position she held for more than a dozen years before returning to Palm Coast.

Orndorff is the executive director of leadership development under Superintendent Jacob Oliva, and essentially a deputy superintendent. He’s also a heavy favorite, with at least two school board members (Trevor Tucker and Andy Dance) having already pronounced themselves ready to hire from within, and Dance once citing Orndorff by name. Three board members–Janet McDonald, Colleen Conklin and Maria Barbosa–favored conducting a national search.

Orndorff will face competition after all: until late last week, that competition appeared less than fierce. But by the time all the names were in, he was facing at least two names that are almost as certain as his to be among the finalists–Edwards and, in a late surprise, Todd Sprager, who since 2010 has been the principal of Spruce Creek High School in Volusia County, a school that year after year ranks among the best in the nation. (There was talk of Delbrugge possibly applying, but so far his name is not on the list.)

The search was necessitated by Oliva’s decision to take a job at the state Department of Education by June. Just as it was with Oliva’s hiring, it’s been a hurried process, this time helped by the involvement of consultants from the Florida School Board Association, who coordinated the advertising campaign. The position was advertised much more broadly than it was three years ago before Oliva’s hiring, but only for eight weeks: the ad was published on Feb. 13.

Several principals and teachers have applied, as have several mid-level administrators and at least two executives with for-profit school networks or charter school networks, a reflection of the more varied education landscape.

The list of applicants and their full application packets appears below. Click on the bolded names to see the application. The list will be updated as the district makes additional applications available.

Applicants for Flagler County School Superintendent, 2017

Current Location
Current Title
Martha AdamsMiami, Fla. Exceptional Education Teacher.Devon Aire K-8 Center, Fla.
Wayne AlexanderOld Lyme, Conn.Director of Alternative Education
/Asst. Director of Adult Education
Bridgeport, Conn., Public Schools
Audie AshPerry, Fla. High School PrincipalTaylor County Schools, Fla.
Steve Benton
Cottondale, Fla. Not employed. Retired as Superintendent of Jackson County Schools, 2012Not employed.
George BohatchFort Myers, Fla. Director of Student Services Lee County Schools, Fla.
Jon BonnevilleLakeville, Minn.Elementary school principalBurnsville Eagan Savage School
District, Minn.
Kim Braham
[Did not qualify]
Dublin, Ga. Assistant SuperintendentTwiggs County Public Schools (1,500 students).
Nick CampagnaOld Lyme, Conn. Administrative Internship Bloomfield Public
Schools, Conn.
Amanda CerdaPort Orange, Fla. Elementary School TeacherVolusia County Schools.
Vincent CotterBradenton, Fla. Education Consultant.Exemplary Schools Organization
Michael DodgePort Orange, Fla. Not employed. Retired Superintendent from Dundee Community Schools, Mich. in 2016 (1,700 students)Not employed.
Ronnie DotsonGrayson, Ky.SuperintendentCarter County Schools (4,900 students)
Phyllis EdwardsPalm Coast, Fla. Not employed. Not employed.
Kim Eger
[Did not qualify]
Peoria, Ariz.Special Ed. Teacher, Exceptional Student ServicesDysart Unified School District
, Ariz.
Eric Ely
[Did not qualify]
Concord, N.C. High School Math TeacherNot specified.
Kara GannAlpharetta, Ga. ManagerSchoology
Thomas GayPort St. Lucie, Fla.
Senior Education ManagerGEMS Education, Dubai, United Arab Emirates (for-profit network).
Daniel GilbertsonDryden, Mich.Director of Innovative Education and Strategic PartnershipsMadison District Public Schools, Mich.
Kenneth GreenAntioch, Tenn.Self-employed consultant (former Assistant Commissioner, Tennessee Dept. of Education)None.
Christopher HammillFort Gratiot, Mich.Senior Vice President of Operations.Accel Schools (for-profit charter school network).
Yolanda HeidelbergArlington, Tenn.Elementary School PrincipalShelby County Schools, Tenn.
Hannah Jaber
[Did not qualify]
Dearborn Heights, Mich. DirectorWidening Advancements for Youth, Detroit.
Noelle JacquelinCape May Court House, N.J.
Adjunct ProfessorRowan University.
Constance JonesPueblo, Colo. Not employed. Resigned as superintendent of an 18,000-student district in 2016.
Timothy KuehlNorth Liberty, IowaSuperintendent Clear Creek-Amana School District, Iowa (1,900 students).
Jeffrey McCartneyBeecher, Ill. SuperintendentBeecher School District
, Ill. (1,000 students)
Ray MondragonSan Francisco, Calif. Deputy Chief of Early LearningOakland Unified School District, Calif.
Mary MurrayTampaCourse MentorWestern Governors University.
Vernon Orndorff [Withdrawn]Palm Coast, Fla.Executive Director of Leadership
Flagler County Schools.
Ryan PlaceNew Bedford, Mass.Director of Special Education Global Learning Charter Public School.
Linda Roeske
[Did not qualify]
Pueblo, Colo. Secondary Mathematics and Digital SpecialistDistrict 60 Pueblo City Schools.
Jason SpencerOxford, Fla. High School PrincipalThe Villages Charter School.
Todd Sprager
[Did not qualify]
Port Orange, Fla. Spruce Creek High School Principal.Volusia County Schools
Geneva A. StarkMt. Washington, Ky. District Human Resouce
Jefferson County Public Schools, Ky.
James StroderEmigrant, Mont. SuperintendentGardiner School District, Mont. (200 students).
James TagerPort Orange, Fla. High School Principal, Atlantic High SchoolVolusia County Schools.
Andrea Townsend
New Bremen, OhioSuperintendentNew Bremen Local Schools, Ohio (800 students).
Jeffrey UmbaughMiddleburg, Fla.Assistant Superintendent for Instruction.Clay County Schools.
Charlie Van Zant Jr.Keystone Heights
Deputy Commander.Florida Army National Guard.
Gerald WilsonBerlin, Md. Not employed. None.
Scott WoolstenhulmeIdaho Falls, IdahoAssistant Superintendent Bonneville Joint School District 93, Idaho. (12,000 students)
Note: the application packages were provided by the Flagler County school district, which illegally redacted the contact information for most of the candidates' references. We have asked the district to provide compliant copies of the shortlisted candidates' applications.

15 Responses for “Superintendent’s Job Draws Just 41 Applicants, And A Few Stand-Outs After All”

  1. Sw says:

    Probably should give Landon a paycut then hire one with more credentials, more $ incentives

  2. I/M/O says:

    I/M/O this Dr. Ronnie A Dotson out of Grayson, Kentucky should be given very serious consideration.

    Extremely impressive resume, vast experience and a career of outstanding achievements. A man who knows how to fix a school district.

  3. No Way Jose says:

    As a a parent that had students at ITMS during Vernon Orndorff’s tenure, there is no way that he is capable of being the superintendent of Flagler County Schools. He was very narrow one some issues, and wouldn’t be fair on decisions; just on a power trip. I sure hope for the sake of the school system, that he does not get the job!

  4. I see says:

    Knowing Flagler county the position pays 30 to 35 thousand a year and they are wondering why applicants are not banging down the door.

  5. S says:

    Well you must not know Flagler County schools it’s one of the highest paying school district s in Florida. Also it’s public record what they make it’s actually quite a bit. #doyourhomework #research

  6. PC Outlaw says:

    A math teacher, an adjunct professor, what choices. The last candidate has not job or title. You’re hired !!!!

  7. Surprised says:

    Two things bother me here. First is for a school district who flaunts itself as ” The premier learning institution in the nation ” one would think there would at least be 100 or much more applicants in a national search. Heck the premier learning institution in the nation didn’t even draw much interest in its own state! The second is that I would think than more than just 1 candidate from Flagler would have applied, not a knock on Vernon Orndorff because he would be a great choice but just surprised that only 1 from within applied.

  8. Just wait for it says:

    Since only one candidate from Flagler Schools applied you know that is a set up. It was decided to only put up one person from within the district this way there was no Competition from within. When the district announces Vernon Orndorff’ is the new Superintendent, they will say its because he knows the district and the path the board wants to go in. I hope the women on the board doesn’t go along with this. I too like Dr Ronnie Dotson.

  9. George says:

    @ PC Outlaw. All three candidates you mentioned: the math teacher, the adjunct professor, and the last one with no job or title…all listed in their resumes that they were formerly Superintendents.

  10. I/M/O says:

    Just researched the new name on the list. Assistant Superintendent Scott Woolstenhulme Bonneville Joint School District 93 in Idaho.

    Young, dynamic, well educated, great deal of experience, 7 years as an Assistant Superintendent in a District as large as Flagler , totally respected by his peers, parents and students.

    A very interesting candidate.

  11. BeTheChange says:

    In agreement with l/M/O. Every one of his core beliefs is oriented around people, specifically stakeholders and thoughtfully balanced in students, teachers and family. Would love to sit in on that interview. Hard to imagine one so focused could blow it. The district would benefit from a leader with his sights fixed clearly on the students, our #1 customers. Good luck Dr. Dotson!

  12. Flagler Mom says:

    It would be wonderful to see some new blood and fresh ideas in the school system. There are some great things going on but also some areas in serious need of improvement. It might also be beneficial to have an impartial person come in who’s not already friends with or beholden to many of those in administrative positions and can be objective about what needs to be done.

  13. Think of our kids!!! says:

    agreed Dotson looks pretty good!!!

  14. Diane says:

    Please think outside the box ! Flagler County schools needs a fresh face with new ideas !

  15. BeTheChange says:

    Oh wow! Phyllis Edwards is back! She’s amazing!

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