Latest superintendent, from Palm Beach, drawn to Indian River County’s size

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY – The fourth of six candidates sat down with community members and the Indian River County School Board to explain why he should be the county’s next superintendent.

“This is where I want to be,” Palm Beach County Area Superintendent E. Wayne Gent said of Indian River County.

“I love the size” of the school district, he told the group who attended the community reception prior to his interview with the School Board. He explained that the county is reflective of Martin County, where he currently lives. “The size, you can get things done.”

Gent expressed similar sentiments to the School Board when Chair Matt McCain asked if he were considering job opportunities elsewhere.

“I want to be the superintendent of the Indian River County School District,” Gent replied. “I think I would be a great fit.”

Both the School Board and community members asked Gent if he would relocate his family to Indian River County in the event he were selected.

“That would be the long-term goal,” he told former School Board candidate Kim Keithahn during the reception.

Gent said that his family currently has a home – with a mortgage – in Stuart, adding that he didn’t have to take a plane to get to the reception and interview.

School Board member Jeff Pegler asked Gent what his strategy would be to integrate himself into Indian River County if he were hired.

“You have to be adaptable,” Gent responded, adding that he has worked in both St. Lucie and Palm Beach counties and was successful adapting to the individual communities.

He said that he would plan on meeting the School Board members individually to get a sense from them about the community and that he would launch a “listen and learn” tour, attending civic groups and meeting with community members so as to get “a lay of the land” and “hit the ground running and not miss a beat.”

During the reception, Gent expressed support for charter schools, noting that Palm Beach County’s district has 32 such schools, though none are under his direction. In Palm Beach County, he explained, there is a separate department that handles charters and alternative educational centers.

“I don’t view them as an ‘us’ and ‘them’,” Gent said of his philosophy on traditional and charter schools.

He added that he does see them as competition – a way to inspire traditional schools to become innovative and work harder to attract students.

The issue of Indian River County’s desegregation order came up during both meetings, of which Gent expressed understanding.

He told both groups that St. Lucie County had been under a similar order while he was principal of three schools.

“Whether you’re under a court order or not, that’s a best practice,” Gent said of striving to have administration and staff reflect the diversity of the community.

He told the School Board that if they so directed, he would reach out to the various groups in the African American community to determine where the district is in terms of meeting the court order.

The School Board plans to interview the final two candidates on Thursday. That evening, the board is expected to hold a special meeting to discuss all six candidates.

The School Board is seeking a candidate to replace out-going Superintendent Dr. Harry La Cava who is retiring by the end of June.

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