One of four Palm Beach County schools superintendent finalists bows out, taking job in Alaska

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. -  

And then there were three.

James Browder, the former Lee County superintendent who was among four finalists for the Palm Beach County superintendent job, has accepted a position as leader of the Anchorage School District in Alaska.

Browder confirmed this afternoon that he had accepted the position in the snowy northern state, joking that he would need to make a trip to Burlington Coat Factory sometime soon.

The removal of his name from consideration for the top position in the Palm Beach County School District could complicate the superintendent search, board members said.

School board chairman Frank Barbieri said the board will probably discuss Browder's withdrawal during their meeting Wednesday afternoon. The board had already planned to discuss the superintendent search, as well as a potential employment contract for the person it hires, at that meeting.

Barbieri said the board knew Browder was up for the Anchorage superintendency and that it was at risk of losing him.

He said it's unclear whether the board will want to add someone back in to the finalists circle to restore the number to four.

When asked whether current interim Superintendent Wayne Gent might now be considered, Barbieri said it is not something the board has discussed, and declined to share his opinions on the subject. When Gent took the interim job, he signed a contract that barred him from applying for the permanent superintendent position.

School board member Chuck Shaw said "it's always disappointing when we lose a quality candidate." He said the board should continue moving forward with vetting the three remaining candidates.

The 49,000-student Anchorage school district - about 4,900 miles from West Palm Beach - is considerably smaller than Palm Beach County's 174,000 student population, as well as Lee County's 82,000 students.

It also pays less. Browder's three-year contract is for $180,000 a year. In comparison, Palm Beach County, the nation's 11th-largest school district, is expecting to offer its new superintendent a minimum of $225,000 a year.

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