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Flagler Schools Lose the Only Internal Applicant for Top Job as Vernon Orndorff Takes Post in Texas

| March 28, 2017

Vernon Orndorff, one of the quieter, unassuming forces in the Flagler County school district over the past 12 years, is leaving Florida behind. (© FlaglerLive)

Vernon Orndorff, the only internal applicant to replace Jacob Oliva as school superintendent, has withdrawn his application and accepted a job in Texas. He will lead the 250-student Milford Independent School District, in a town halfway between Dallas and Waco, as its website describes it. Orndorff is expected to start his job there May 1. (On March 31, he acknowledged that he wasn’t going o be a superintendent immediately, but would first have to fulfill a couple of steps, including getting his principal’s certification in Texas.)

Orndorff has been one of the quieter, unassuming forces of the school district, rising over the past 12 years from the faculty and coaching ranks at Matanzas High School to his current title as executive director of leadership development–and, essentially, as Oliva’s right hand. His departure ensures that for the first time in 13 years, a period when three successive superintendents were hired from within, the board will be forced to hire someone who hasn’t worked in the Flagler district–at least not recently: one applicant, Phyllis Edwards, spent much of her career in Flagler schools, including as assistant superintendent, before taking a job in Georgia 14 years ago.

School Board members Trevor Tucker and Andy Dance made a play to hire Orndorff without a national search on Feb. 1, but were overruled by the other three board members, who preferred a national search. That search drew 41 applicants. The relatively low number likely reflects the sense among some would-be applicants that the district may have been leaning inward all along, so several people may not have applied for that reason. The application window has closed, however, and when the citizen’s advisory committee the board appointed to draw up a short list meets this evening at 5:30 p.m., it will be limited to the remaining 40 applicants, several of whom were disqualified for not providing all the necessary information, or not meeting minimum requirements of the job.

For Orndorff, Texas has been pulling at his strings for years: it’s where he had taught and coached for 12 years before Florida–and where, just four years ago, he ‘d made the final five after applying for a job as head basketball coach at Silsbee High School, east of Houston. He has family in Texas.

Vernon Orndorff as Middleworld's Lord 6 Dog, back in 2010 when he was principal at Indian Trails Middle School and he was participating in a literary celebration. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

Vernon Orndorff as Middleworld’s Lord 6 Dog, back in 2010 when he was principal at Indian Trails Middle School and he was participating in a literary celebration. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

“I’ve got a great opportunity to get connected with my family,” Orndorff said, “a great opportunity to lead a district, a school district, and this has been a very tough decision for the family. My children know Flagler schools, they know no others school district, and my wife and I, we’ve embraced Flagler as our heme for the past 12 years. But in these 12 years I’ve had a great opportunity and been very blessed with different positions, positions in leadership.” It’s that trajectory, he said, that has prepared him for his next step, which he said he cannot turn down. “I just cannot do that at this time.”

Orndorff, who has a son at Matanzas and a son at Palm Coast High School, and a daughter at Bunnell Elementary, was all but assured of making the shortlist of candidates to be interviewed for the superintendent position in Flagler. He just made the final five for the Alachua County superintendent job, which had opened in January: so Orndorff had been applying even then.

He started in the district 12 years ago as a teacher and boys’ basketball coach at Matanzas, and assistant coach where needed, then became assistant principal at Matanzas for four years, principal at Indian trails Middle School, and in April 2014, was promoted to the central office, at the time as principal on assignment to oversee the final year of the Race to the Top grant. He was then named to his current position.

“I believe he was a great candidate, I believe he would have done the job,” a disappointed Tucker, who also chairs the school board, said this afternoon. “Now we have a smaller pool of candidates to choose from.” But, he noted, “as an individual if you have a job offer that was a good job offer somewhere else, would you wait around?”

The school board will get the advisory committee’s short list of candidates at a meeting on April 4. “We were hoping it’d be five or less,” Tucker said, though the committee has no strict directive on the number of candidates.

Oliva took Orndorff’s decision in stride. “It’s not a surprise,” Oliva said. “Vernon is very capable of leading a school district, and we’re really excited for him, this is a great opportunity for him and his family.”

As for Orndorff’s and Oliva’s departure adding up to a one-two punch against continuity in the district, Oliva said: “I like to think that our vision our framework, the initiatives that we put in place, are embedded with the culture of the district. Obviously our board supports the direction that the district is heading in. I have faith the board is going to find somebody that’s going to be a good fit,” and will build on the same foundation.

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.

13 Responses for “Flagler Schools Lose the Only Internal Applicant for Top Job as Vernon Orndorff Takes Post in Texas”

  1. Fat Boy says:

    Mr Oliva has direction. Mr Orndorff has direction. Too bad the School Board has no direction. Its a shame to lose these two talented leaders. If any of the applicants have been watching the recent School Board meetings, they are probably reconsidering applying. The School Board needs to start working as a team & forget politics and egos.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Our loss is Texas gain, Vernon is a good man.

  3. PC Outlaw says:

    Nice to see good things happen to good people.

  4. A concerned citizen says:

    The perfect candidate was right under the blind school board’s turned-up noses. Sometimes we can’t see the forest for the trees. God speed Mr. Orndorff.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I agree with Fat Boy! The 3 board members who wanted a national search evidently didn’t like the direction that Mr. Oliva had lead the Flagler School System in during his term or they would have at least entertained an interim superintendent (namely Vernon Orndorff for a year). I wonder why those 3 board members didn’t change Mr. Oliva’s direction 3 years ago if now all the sudden they don’t want someone internal to continue the great educational success Flagler County School’s has enjoyed?

  6. Shocked says:

    They should open up the position to internal candidates again as the best applicant has taken a better offer due to this delayed timeline of hiring someone. Internal employees did not apply knowing that Vern was applying for position. Hopefully the board takes that under consideration. Best bet may be to appoint an interim superintendent. The District is now losing two great people to better offers.

  7. Joe says:

    Very disappointing but very happy for Vernon! I really just can’t get a grip on how many really great employees have left Flagler over the past 3 years. Good luck Vern, we know you will do great things!

  8. The Ghost of America says:

    Why on earth would someone want to be associated with a school district whose electorate is ok with electing a candidate with a fake degree that is completely ok with plagiarism? I can’t say I blame him at all.

  9. Old Lady says:

    Good luck Mr. Orndoff. Hope the school board gets their act together.

  10. Michael Manning says:

    Extremely disappointing news for Flagler. Mr. Orndorff was an outstanding candidate that has provided excellent leadership in Flagler Schools for a significant amount of time. How we lost such a qualified candidate when we are striving to be the nation’s premier learning organization is frustrating to see. Good luck to Mr. Orndorff in Texas, hoping for nothing but the best for him and his family.

  11. JasonB says:

    I would have to question just how good a candidate Mr. Orndorff could have been if he chose to go to Texas, a state that continues to undermine actual education by altering history and attempting to put the crackpot hypothesis of creationism into science classrooms.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Salary of Milford ISD Superintendent is $110,250 per year. It equates to a salary of $510 per student one of the highest ratios in the State. . The salary ranking is 462nd out of the 1232 school districts in the State of Texas.

    Congratulations Mr. Orndorff. No doubt you will love you new job. Best of luck.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Good bye!

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