TAVARES –  School Board members on Monday agreed to interview seven candidates for Lake County Schools superintendent. 

Five of the seven candidates were recommended by the Superintendent Search Advisory Committee. The seven applicants are from Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Tennessee and Maryland.

School Board members said they hope to have a superintendent hired in the coming months, before Superintendent Susan Moxley steps down at the end of her contract in July.

The top candidates are:

Bob Anderson is a deputy superintendent at Fulton County Schools in Atlanta, Georgia, and has served in several executive roles in over the past four and a half years. Anderson was area superintendent for the Northeast Learning Community in Fulton, supervising 22 schools with 22,900 students. In a letter accompanying his application, he said he was able “to maintain the highest levels of performance in the district … including an overall graduation rate of 91.5 percent, an average SAT score of 1,682 and 6,062 Advanced Placement exams with an 81.5 percent pass rate."
Quintin Shepherd has been superintendent of the Linn-Mar Community School District in Marion, Iowa, since July 2015. “Linn-Mar Community School District has been nationally recognized and featured as a leader in revolutionary strategic planning processes,” according to Shepherd’s cover letter. His School Board was also awarded the Board Governance Award on multiple occasions, the highest honor from the Illinois School Board Association.
Jerry Wilson has served as superintendent of Worcester County Public Schools in Berlin, Maryland, for the past four years. According to his resume, Wilson’s school system was recognized for two years for “best school system performance” in the state of Maryland on the 2015-16 Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers results.
Mark Mullins is deputy superintendent at Brevard County Schools in Melbourne Beach, where he has held the position since July. Citing his work as area superintendent in Brevard, Mullins wrote in his cover letter that VAM scores increased, “and graduation rates exceeded state average.”
Diane Kornegay has been deputy superintendent at Clay County School District in Melrose since June 2015. According to Kornegay’s resume, she has 30 years of experience in school and district administration in two Florida school districts, where she "improved student achievement and increased graduation rates within all student subgroups."
Brennan Asplen is deputy superintendent for St. Johns County School District. According to his resume, he “led four departments whose collaborative efforts made the St. Johns County School District the No. 1 academically performing district in the state for the past eight years. He also increased the graduation rate to 91 percent.”
Verna Ruffin is superintendent for Jackson-Madison County Schools in Jackson, Tennessee. According to Ruffin’s resume, she "created a Middle School Academic Academy school-within-a-school model enhancing educational outcomes for students. She also created an early college high school."

Several School Board members expressed concern about Shepherd and Wilson because they have worked at significantly smaller school districts than Lake County.

In particular, School Board member Kristi Burns said Shepherd made a lot of unilateral decisions without the board.

“I ran across the time he cancelled Halloween,” Burns said. “I was concerned about the fact it was not brought before the board or community.”

Joseph Burke, a consultant with Ray & Associates, the organization tasked with leading the search for candidates, advised the board not to give up on Wilson and Shepherd.

“Wilson was previously in a school district for 25,000,” he said. “He is always there and hardworking to a fault. These are two of the best and brightest.”

The board accepted the five recommendations and then added Asplen and Ruffin as well.

There was discussion about Ruffin and Asplen as viable candidates.

Burke, the consultant, said Ruffin is a strong woman.

“It takes a fortitude for someone to make a decision to close five schools,” Burke said. “She is also strong in terms of focusing on student achievement and she has a very focused approach to how she does that."

At 9:30 a.m. on Dec. 13, the superintendent candidates will be interviewed by each board member in private meetings. At 6 p.m. that evening, the candidates will answer questions publicly from the board. Then at 9:30 a.m. Dec. 14, the School Board will convene a meeting to narrow down the finalists.

The following day, Dodd and School Board member Stephanie Luke will visit the home districts of the top applicants.

There will be a second round of interviews on Dec. 19, 20 and 21. Each evening there will be a reception, followed by additional opportunity for the public to provide input.

The board will have a final meeting at 9:30 a.m. Dec. 22 to pick the superintendent.