INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — The School Board of Indian River County has voted 3-2 to enter into contract with negotiations to hire Dr. Fran Adams as the next Superintendent of Schools to take over from retiring Dr. Harry La Cava on July 1.
Board members Carol Johnson, Claudia Jimenez and Jeff Pegler voted for Adams. Chairman Matt McCain and Board member Karen Disney-Brombach voted in the minority. The board followed the 3-2 vote with a unanimous vote of support for negotiating with Dr. Adams.
After interviewing six candidates in person and hosting community receptions, the School Board narrowed the field down to two — Adams and Palm Beach County Area Superintendent Mr. E. Wayne Gent.
School Board members questioned the final two again on Tuesday and then reconvened at 7:30 p.m., to discuss the selection process and the decision at hand.
Disney-Brombach said the school district needs someone not to make major changes, but “to maintain our successes and to take us to the next level.”
After about 10 minutes, Johnson made a motion to enter into a contract with Adams.
Johnson admitted that Adams was not in her top two choices originally, but that the interview process convinced her that she was the best candidate.
“One of my biggest concerns was the relationship with the board,” Johnson said. “Dr. La Cava has set a new standard for communicating with the board. He has been in front of what we needed to know.”
Pegler lauded high praise on Adams, about the job she’s done over the years and the fact that, although she had decades of service with the district, that he thought she could bring “fresh ideas.”
He said there is “nothing farther from the truth” that Adams is part of the “inner circle” of the district.
“Dr. Adams is the right candidate at the right time,” Pegler said.
“We need someone in our school district who is not going to have a tremendous learning curve figuring out the culture of the district,” said Jimenez.
Disney-Brombach pointed out that what she would have to say would “not be popular” and that she was not going to “change lanes” just because three members had already spoken in favor of Adams.
“I have to say what I feel,” she said.
She said the district has many deficiencies in areas where Adams has little experience, includng handling Human Resources, Risk Management, and maintenance.
Disney also said that the district’s curriculum is “the best we’ve seen” and that the district needs Adams in her current position of Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum.
“We hear kudos” from others around the state about the work Adams has done, Disney-Brombach said, adding that moving Adams to the schools chief role “makes us extremely vulnerable.”
She explained that not only would the district have a new superintendent, it would also have a new curriculum leader.
Disney-Brombach said she thought it was not right to question Gent’s plans for relocating to the county. It was an issue several school board members raised during the interview process.
She said the issue came up late in the process and, if it had been a factor, should have been included in the requirements for candidates.
“I think that’s unfair,” Disney-Brombach said.
Chairman Matt McCain echoed Disney-Brombach’s sentiments, saying that he had been prepared to vote for Gent.
“It would be disingenuous” not to say how he would vote, McCain said. “Both would do a fantastic job.”
McCain said a few times during the process that when he imagined the “face of the franchise” – the person who would be out in the community touting the district’s successes and building bridges – he pictured Gent.
“It’s a difficult position to be put in that a vote for Candidate A is a vote against Candidate B,” McCain said.