WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - After nearly four hours of heated discussion, the Palm Beach County School Board has selected its next permanent superintendent in E. Wayne Gent.
"It's a unanimous decision for Mr. Gent," said Frank Barbieri, school board chairman, during the meeting Wednesday evening. "Congratulations Mr. Gent."
Gent, after serving the last three months as interim superintendent, received full support from the school board. He can now drop 'interim' from his title.
"Two weeks ago, I'd never have imagined this was something that was going to occur," said Gent, soon after the vote. "It wasn't something I was looking for or something that I'd lobbied for. The board decided to include me in the process and I felt I stepped in as interim, just to keep the district going."
Gent was a late addition to the candidate pool. It was not until during Wednesday's meeting that the board voted 5-2 to amend Gent's contract, allowing him to be considered a candidate for a permanent superintendent position.
Despite concern about allowing Gent to become a candidate this late in the hiring process from some board members, some educators in the district, and some in the public, Gent was propelled to the top of the board's short list.
"We didn't break our promise," said Chairman Barbieri. "We didn't violate the process. We amended the process to make sure that we had the best person possible as superintendent for the children of this district."
Two others were finalists. Dr. Janis Andrews currently serves in the Palm Beach County School District as assistant superintendent of curriculum and learning support. Some board members and some members of the public raised concern about how long Andrews would be able to serve as superintendent, if selected.
Dr. Constance Jones is employed by the Lee County School District as chief academic officer. The board had concerns with Jones being able to lead a district of Palm Beach County's size. There are approximately 170,000 students in 187 schools in the district. Some on the board also pointed to Jones' lack of experience as a superintendent.
The unanimous vote for Gent to be selected was taken nearly four hours after the meeting began. First on Gent's to-do list is embark on what he calls a 'listening and learning' tour of the district, visiting every community. Gent said he hopes to speak with as many students and staff as possible about what aspects of the district are running smoothly and what needs improvement.
"These are tough times for us and I hope that they showed the confidence in me tonight that I can continue to do that and perform at a high level," said Gent.
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