Jacksonville, FL — More than a year after Duval County Public Schools' prior Superintendent stepped down to take the top spot in Detroit, the Duval School Board has named the person they want to lead the District in to the future.
By a unanimous vote, the Board selected Dr. Diana Greene, who is currently the Superintendent in Manatee County, FL. They have authorized the start of contract negotiations with Greene.
Among the reasons Board Members say they voted for Greene are her experience in Florida, and specifically as a Superintendent.
“We’re gunna need someone who can be the steady hand to work through that next phase of implementation of everything, and keeping things going,” says Board Member Becki Couch.
Couch and others noted Florida’s legislative climate, which has recently included mandating boosting school security without fully funding the cost and a contentious law that makes it easier for charter schools to receive public funding and expand operations. Areas like that continue to pose a challenge in the District, and the Board wants to make sure they’re prepared.
“I think it’s important that the next Superintendent not only know how to do the things well that we do today, but also knows how to do the things we need to start doing, and do tomorrow,” says Board Member Scott Shine.
Another area the Board touted was Greene bringing in revenue to Manatee County.
“She has done some amazing things. She’s bold, she’s not afraid of doing the things she needs to do, she’s done wonderful work in Manatee,” says Board Member Cheryl Grymes.
She led the effort to have voters renew a half-cent sales tax for school capital needs and add a new one mill property tax increase to make teacher salary more competitive, among other things.
“Our most valuable asset that we have as a District is our teachers,” says Board Member Warren Jones.
And at the end of the day, it’s also about the quality of education. Board Member Lori Hershey noted Greene’s “innovative” approach, especially with ESE students. Board Chair Paula Wrights says Greene is progressive and can meet the challenges that are ahead.
“Because of her exceptional instructional design expertise, and her ability to recognize and evaluate high quality instruction,” Wright says.
Speaking with WOKV after her selection, Greene says she is “incredibly honored and humbled” by the Board’s decision.
“Moving to a larger school district will definitely be... I don’t want to say a challenge, but it definitely will be something that I’ve been working for my career. I’ve worked to be prepared for this opportunity,” she says.
Greene says her priority will be to ensure every student in Duval County receives a high quality education in the public school system. She believes that ties closely to ensuring schools are safe, and says that will be a focus for her. Right now, she is looking at ensuring there is a smooth transition with the interim Superintendent, to make sure there's a strong foundation as she takes over.
Greene has been the Superintendent in Manatee County since May 2015. She has been in education for 33 years, including time as a teacher, assistant principal, and principal, as well as roles in curriculum development, staff development, and senior executive leadership.
Initially, Board Member Ashley Smith Juarez said she was in favor of another finalist, Michael Dunsmore, however she voted for Greene in the end, making it a unanimous decision.
Dr. Patricia Willis has been operating as the interim Superintendent, through this selection process. She retired in 2012, after previously serving as Deputy Superintendent. The School Board previously decided the interim candidate would not be eligible to apply for the permanent Superintendent position.
The selection process started last August, and since that time the School Board engaged a search firm to find candidates. Three finalists were selected earlier this week, and the Board then publicly interviewed each candidate, leading to Friday's vote.
Contract negotiations must still take place, but pending that, Greene has accepted the offer and is tentatively slated to start July 1st.
Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry says he is looking forward to working with Greene.
The Jacksonville Public Education Fund also congratulated Greene on the position.
“In her, our community has found a leader who is deeply committed to supporting teachers and principals across our district in improving outcomes for students and to bringing financial solvency to Duval County. This is demonstrated in the progress that schools in Manatee County have made under her watch, and through her successful efforts to gain the community’s trust after periods of instability,” says a statement from the JPEF.
This is a developing story that will be updated through the day.