Last Updated: Wednesday, 10:37 a.m.
Updated with Jacob Oliva interview.
Three years ago Jacob Oliva made the move from Wadsworth Elementary principal to assistant principal at Flagler Palm Coast High School. He was elevated to principal a year later. Tuesday evening, Superintendent Janet Valentine announced his appointment as her deputy superintendent, a decision she had been mulling over for a while, but that was precipitated last week by a violent car accident involving Valentine’s daughter: Valentine has been away most of the time since and expects to be at her daughter’s bedside for a while yet. She wanted someone in charge in the meantime, particularly in light of the series of issues facing the district.
Nevertheless it was a surprise for Oliva. “I pretty much got the phone call Monday night,” he said.
At just 38, his rise through the school district’s ranks has been little short of meteoric. He did his teaching internship at Wadsworth Elementary in 1999, then taught there for five years, became a dean at Belle Terre elementary in 2005, then assistant principal at FPC, principal at Wadsworth, and back to FPC as principal. “I have a passion for learning and trying to grow professionally and I’ve always put myself in a position where I can learn from people who have a lot of experience,” which is what helped him move up, Oliva said. He cites Jill Woolbright, a teacher at Bunnell Elementary, as an example.
A solid succession plan, Valentine said in a prepared statement at a school board meeting Tuesday evening, is key to the organization’s success, suggesting that Oliva’s appointment may also place him in line to take over the top spot when Valentine retires, as she intends to, in a few years, though that would be the board’s decision.
Tuesday’s appointment was entirely within Valentine’s authority, but she was seeking–and received–the board’s blessing.
“We’ve had conversations of needing to take this issue up and have kind of been putting it off,” board member Colleen Conklin said after this evening’s meeting. “Unfortunately the circumstances we find ourselves in, we really needed to move very quickly to have a very confident and capable second in command.” Valentine’s 28-year-old daughter was involved in a wreck on I-95 last week. She has been in critical but stable condition since, going through two surgeries, with a third expected. She suffered numerous broken bones but no brain damage, and has been at Halifax hospital in Daytona Beach.
“Janet won’t be completely out of pocket, but her attention rightfully so is definitely going to be outside of the district, and we have a number of critical issues that we’re dealing with on the district level” Conklin said, citing the budget, the start of a new school year, the full implementation of new academic standards (called “common core”), the half penny sales tax initiative the district is seeking to renew at the polls in August. “There are just so many critical components we’re in the process of moving forward on. And Janet really wanted to make sure that there was a second in command.”
Oliva will be replaced at Flagler Palm Coast High School by Lynette Shott, who was one of the school’s assistant principals. “Lynette is an excellent person to take over Flagler Palm Coast, she’s worked with me pretty much side by side for the last couple of years and has a great grasp of the vision and direction the school is going,” Oliva said, citing Shott’s strength in developing teachers and maintaining the school’s momentum as it improves academic performances.
Oliva’s pay isn’t clear yet (Valentine’s is around $140,000 a year), but the superintendent said the position will be paid for, despite budget issues, because an assistant principal position at FPC will be left vacant. Late in the school year, FPC created a sixth assistant principal position when Carla Taylor moved from Pathways Academy to FPC. Presumably, FPC will have five assistant principals, the number it had before Taylor’s arrival.
“I think that Jacob has a lot of talent and a lot of ability and is a great leader. This is coming from someone who didn’t always see eye to eye,” Conklin said, referring to her much-publicized disagreement with Oliva subsequent to his and Valentine’s decision to cancel the staging of To Kill a Mockingbird almost two years ago. The student production was eventually brought back, with Conklin’s and the public’s prodding. “But I’m excited to see Jacob take on this position because I do think he’ll grow into being an outstanding assistant superintendent, because he has the ability to self-reflect and learn from circumstances that may arise, and that’s a key component to leadership.”
Oliva, a native of Miami–“I’m a product of the Miami-Dade school system”–is married and has two young children, one of whom will be a third grader at Bunnell Elementary. He’s completing a doctorate in education leadership at the University of Florida.