GAINESVILLE, Fla. – At their May 2 board meeting, the school board voted 3-2 to retain Andrew as superintendent through the end of June 2024 and delay the start date for a new superintendent to that date.
Andrew was appointed as Interim Superintendent on March 15, 2022, and he negotiated a contract through June 30, 2024, at a salary of $175,000; the contract guarantees that he can return to his previous position of Chief of Operations if he is terminated from the Interim Superintendent job.
During the part of the meeting that is set aside for comments from the teachers’ union, ACEA President Carmen Ward said every educator she has spoken to wants the “stability of Shane Andrew” as superintendent.
During the adoption of the agenda, Member Sarah Rockwell requested that the board table the agenda item about Andrew’s contract, which she had requested. She said, “I don’t think it is fair to discuss the Superintendent’s contract when the board’s evaluations weren’t available to all board members and the public until this afternoon.” The motion failed, 2-3, with only Rockwell and Certain favoring the removal of the item.
Board evaluations of Andrew
The board first discussed their individual evaluations of Andrew. The evaluations were posted just a few hours before the meeting; Rockwell rated Andrew “Unsatisfactory,” Chair Tina Certain rated him “Needs Improvement,” and Members Kay Abbitt, Diyonne McGraw, and Leanetta McNealy rated him “Effective.” The highest rating on the form is “Highly Effective.”
Certain decided to take public comment before the board discussed the evaluations. Twelve people spoke in favor of retaining Andrew as Interim Superintendent, one person spoke against Andrew, and three people spoke about more general issues. Stability was a consistent theme in the comments of those who spoke in favor of keeping Andrew as Superintendent.
Rockwell said her evaluation was “thorough and lengthy” and said the board needs to make “really good decisions for our children.” She said many people are frustrated by the lack of progress in the school district and that Andrew has an opportunity to improve. “I think the way to improve this is through project management documentation… I would like to see [project management documents] for all our major projects” with timelines and updates presented to the board. She said she would be open to creating a position or contracting a position to help with project management and that she wanted Andrew to be successful and wanted the board to “move forward with unity and a plan.”
McGraw said she had hoped to never be at a meeting like this again and that she had thought the board was unified. She emphasized that the “focus always has to be on children” and spoke at length about discipline (her vision is covered here, and there will be another workshop on discipline tomorrow at 10 a.m.). “Mr. Andrew is–just like the rest of us, we all have our challenges, we all have our strengths… You build a team around you that’s able to make you successful.” She said it’s not “time for change” because that “would be disastrous” in preparing for the 2023-24 school year.
Abbitt said Andrew had “inherited a lot of turmoil” and “you can’t expect miracles to happen.” She said that when new leaders come in, they just need to observe at first and that the board had only provided guidance to the superintendent two months ago. She added that Andrew had “brought a sense of calm to the district.”
McNealy said Mr. Andrew has strong ties to the local community and that stability and consistency are important. She concluded, “We need to leave as-is right now and move forward.”
Certain said she was “perplexed” at the uproar around the evaluation because it’s board policy to evaluate the superintendent once a year. She asked Andrew about an incident that was reported in the Gainesville Sun in which unnamed district employees said Andrew brought a Bible into a staff meeting and read Bible quotes about people betraying Jesus.
Andrew said, “The Gainesville Sun article is not accurate. Never happened.” He said the Sun did not name the staff members because they don’t exist; he said he had never opened a Bible and read to employees out of that Bible: “I let my light so shine, but I’ll leave it at that.”
Certain said the board had made their priorities clear in early November “and I don’t believe, and I don’t see evidence of a coordinated strategy of really addressing what’s happening in the school building.” She said the district staff didn’t seem to have the authority to direct school staff to make changes. She said her evaluation was intended to “adjust our practice.”
Shane Andrew responds
After all the school board members had spoken, Andrew said he received the self-evaluation document at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, April 22, and he was asked to turn it in by April 25, so he only had two workdays to complete it. He added, “But let’s evaluate me on comprehensive rezoning, that wasn’t even approved until April 4th? That’s not even a month ago… I’ll just say the timeline was unrealistic for that self-evaluation… I’m humbled by the kind comments, the support, and the constructive feedback. I hear that. I know we have fallen short as a system. I know we have failed… And I’ve been part of that system… Blame me, but give me some time to change the system.”
Andrew continued, “Our staff has not had time to do the work. And we have these monumental things that we have to do–we’ve been preparing the next slide deck.” He mentioned the large number of meetings and workshops that have been held over the past few months and requested that staff be given time to do the work. He said he had previously run schools, and when he got to the district office he said, “Oh my gosh, yes, that is the problem… It might be that we all need to be cleared out of here, and we start over.” He said they need to focus on “assessment, getting our kids safely through the school year, getting them to their graduations, focus on supporting our teachers as they close out the year, we need to change what we do so we have equitable access and opportunities for all kids.”
Certain asked him what he meant by “systemic change,” pointing out that schools with the largest number of students in poverty usually have the most staff vacancies and the least experienced staff. Andrew responded, “Just like we addressed the hiring, yes. And if you call it out, systemic racism has to be addressed. That’s just the way it’s been… systemic assignments.” He said that the least effective teachers are often sent to the lower-performing schools: “We plan to address that.”
The board voted 5-0 to receive the evaluations.
Abbitt made a motion to postpone the search for the new superintendent until January 2024 and honor Andrew’s contract through June 2024. McGraw seconded the motion. Abbitt said it would be hard for Andrew to get much done by the original date of November, although she seemed to be talking about a start date for the search compared to the previous target hiring date of November.
Rockwell didn’t want to push it off that far because it wouldn’t leave much time for transition. McGraw said, “We need to regroup, we need a retreat” and said Abbitt’s motion would give Andrew a full school year to implement his plan. McNealy said she would prefer holding to the compromise that had been reached the previous day on the start date for the new superintendent. Certain wanted to go forward with the search as they decided yesterday. Andrew said it made more sense to have the new superintendent come in during the summer instead of in the middle of the school year, and he thought that schedule might attract more candidates.
During public comment on the motion, 12 people spoke in favor of the motion, and nobody spoke against it.
When the discussion came back to the board, Certain clarified that the intent is to start the search in January 2024 with the intent of having the new superintendent start at the end of Andrew’s contract in June 2024. The motion passed 3-2, with Certain and Rockwell in dissent.
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