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Superintendent Search Group Ends With Short-List of 5 to School Board, Including Oliva

| January 21, 2014

Job done: the superintendent search committee put in a marathon session Tuesday to complete its work and convey five names to the school board. (© FlaglerLive)

Job done: the superintendent search committee put in a marathon session Tuesday to complete its work and convey five names to the school board. (© FlaglerLive)

After a day-long process Tuesday that included working through lunch and not adjourning until 4 p.m., the search committee for Flagler County’s next school superintendent agreed to recommend five names to the school board: Mary Murray, Jacob Oliva, James Parla, Christopher Quinn and Pamela Tapley.

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The school board meets Thursday at 2 p.m. at the Government Services Building to take up the recommendations and decide whether to interview all five or fewer. The committee is offering its services should additional interviews be needed.

There was little surprise in the final five, though three of the five are from other states. Only one of the five is currently a superintendent without qualifiers. Oliva is another, but the word “interim” qualifies his title. Two candidates are assistant superintendents, and the fifth is not currently a public school administrator.

There were 20 applicants in all, five of whom were disqualified for not meeting minimum requirements the search committee had set in its job posting. Each member of the 15-member committee (a couple of whom were absent) scored each of 15 applicants according to a multi-page set of criteria that then became the basis for discussions.

Many search committee members “realized that the questions were in many cases very subjective, such as experience in dealing with union negotiations,” County Commissioner Brabara Revels, who chaired the search committee, said afterward, summarizing the day’s proceedings. “Unless that was spoken of by the applicant somewhere there would be no score and yet anyone in a position of leadership [or administration] in Florida would certainly have had that experience.” Nevertheless committee members generally agreed, Revels said, that it was “a way to fairly evenly apply a rating system.”

Flagler Superintendent Janet Valentine began the succession process last year, and had put in place its essential framework when she suffered a stroke just before Thanksgiving. She has been recovering since, but she will not be returning to work. She had picked Oliva as her assistant superintendent in 2012—with Oliva in mind to replace her wither her June retirement already set. A majority of the board supported the notion, and publicly expressed support for Oliva, but at the same time board members did not want to make the appointment without a broader search. Board members were also criticized for rushing to coronate Oliva.

The result was the appointment of the search committee and a relatively rushed process that compressed a job posting, the short-listing and the board’s Jan. 23 meeting all in a matter of a few weeks, with the Christmas holiday devouring a good portion of that. Some of the search committee’s members were openly critical of being placed in that position.

All committee members agreed, Revels said, “it was a great experience to work together as a team even though we had much disagreement. All learned a great deal about the process and felt this selection is one of the most important decisions our community (the Board) will make as this person will shape the lives of our children’s learning experiences and hence the community’s health and progress.”

Throughout the process, however, Oliva has remained the clear front-runner, if only because regardless of the search, Oliva has been leading the district through difficult crises (Valentine’s stroke, shortly followed by the death of Bruce Preece, the long-time transportation director), submitting innovative ideas to broaden the district’s marketing and its development of a workforce more in sync with the local job market, and providing board members with a level of continuity and trust that made Valentine’s exit, however personally difficult, far less disruptive than it otherwise might have been. Valentine’s staff, however, ensured such seamlessness at least as much.

He still has four competitors.

Mary Murray is a course mentor and instructor at Western Grosvenor University’s Teachers College in Oklahoma, but she was briefly an administrator in Manatee County schools for a few months in 2013, and a principal, assistant principal and dean in Collier County schools for 10 years before that, until 2013.

James Parla, of Lawrenceville, N.J., has been a school superintendent since 2004 in four school districts in New York and New Jersey, a second career he took on after working for Verizon’s predecessor as director of statewide operations and public communications.

Christopher Quinn, of Stafford, Va., has held positions as assistant superintendent (or similar) since 1998 in New York and Virginia. And Pamela Tapley, the only other Floridian, has been an assistant superintendent of high schools for Osceola public schools—the district that served as the Flagler school board’s inspiration two years ago when Flagler instituted a stricter dress code.

The candidate’s full resumes are below.

Superintendent Candidates, Flagler County Schools: The Final Five

Current Location
Current Job
Mary MurrayMoore, Okla.Mentor/instructor at Western Governors University's Teachers College since Nov. 2013
Jacob OlivaPalm CoastActing superintendent, Flagler County Schools, was assistant superintendent.
James ParlaLawrenceville, N.J.Superintendent, Hamilton Township School District, since 2012; 13,000 students. Was superintendent in three other districts since 2004.
Christopher QuinnStafford, Va. Assistant superintendent for instruction, since 2005.
Pamela TapleyOrlando, Fla.Assistant superintendent of high schools, Osceola Public Schools.
Click on the candidate's name to access the full pdf of the application.


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14 Responses for “Superintendent Search Group Ends With Short-List of 5 to School Board, Including Oliva”

  1. Justin Case says:

    What a joke! Nuff said!

  2. Denise says:

    Is there a list of the names who served on the search committee ?

  3. Denise says:

    Is there a list of names who served on the search committee?

  4. Pastor Jones says:

    we know the out come so let the game begin.

  5. Rob says:

    Why wouldn’t Mr. Olivia be included?

    The School Board chairman installed his shill to direct the selection committee to frame the position requirements in favor of Mr Olivia.
    Next, members of the school board are on record as already favoring Mr. Olivia.

    So why is this charade being performed?

  6. Citizen says:

    There are no instructors at Western Givernors University (WGU) as it is an online university. Mentors follow, support, and aid students enrolled in a program. They track progress, help set goals, establish testing timelines, offer assistance, etc., but they do not teach any subjects. I attended WGU, so I am quite familiar with the school.

    • Kendall says:

      Are you saying they have online classes without instructors? I attend a state university in the online program and my courses are administered by real professors, associate professors and adjunct instructors. Someone has to develop the curriculum, monitor the activity on blackboard or whichever platform is used, grade assignments, tests and papers, and have responsibility for coursework.

      From WGU’s website: “As of July 2012, WGU employs over 1,100 full-time faculty, plus over 200 part-time faculty, serving in one of several faculty roles. About 85% of student mentors and over 98% of course mentors have earned a graduate degree. For course mentors and academic program management, that typically means a Ph.D., Ed.D., or other form of doctorate or professional degree.”

      • Citizen says:

        The classes are not taught by instructors. Instead, students utilize resources to self teach and study independently. Some courses require you to study and take a proctored exam while other courses have you completing tasks (research papers, etc.) to obtain credit. Indeed there are no instructors teaching the classes. It is a competency based university.

        • Citizen says:

          I might add that an outside agency grades any tasks/papers. Students talk to a mentor twice a month for 5-10 minutes to verify that they are studying and staying on course with their course work. Call and speak to a counselor to learn more for yourself.

  7. Linda Haywood says:

    After viewing the rubric (the tool that determines a candidate’s eligibility) I see that Mr. Oliva was given 60 points for being a Floridian! If you remove those points, it reduces his standing on the short list. Tell me why I shouldn’t think that if he is appointed, it obviously was a charade that cost time and effort of those dedicated and hardworking individuals on the search committee.
    The entire school board needs to be replaced. Elections take place this year. Remember that, Flagler taxpayers.

  8. James says:

    This is so sad. Mr. Oliva’s credentials are unimpressive. He got the stamp of approval like all Flagler County graduates/local/hometown people do, whether it’s this job or a teaching job. His recent efforts to spearhead an early retirement package, which changed repeatedly as it was being offered, demonstrates a lack of administrative and executive skills needed for the job. Is he a nice guy? Most likely. Is he interested in the job and its responsibilities? Of course, what a nice salary? Does any of that make him the most qualified? Of course not.
    I think the school board should scrub this whole process and start over again. In this economy, there has been something truly wrong with their process if this is the outcome. Again, so sad.

  9. It appears FLagler County residents are going to have something else shoved down their throats, in the appointment of Jacob Oliva as Superintendent. This entire “search” has been a farce since the day of its inception. From the finite time frame of the search, to the scoring,. The fact is that the “Search Committee” has done very little searching. They have skewed the process so that Mr Oliva is the heir presumptive to the position. Their biased and lax “search” will not be for the improvement of our childrens education but the implimentation of specific qualified persons being denied an impartial interview process in order to advance Mr Oliva’s position from the grooming garden. Tax Payers of Flagler County you are paying for a sham job search and the bill for this traitorous act will be felt for a very long time.

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