The Florida Keys have a new schools superintendent. But the current one says he might not move aside by the Aug. 1 start date.
Mark Porter of Minnesota was offered the job. Jesus Jara, the sitting schools chief, says he wont leave unless he has a new job lined up.
Last week, the Monroe School Board pegged Porter, superintendent of South Washington County (Minn.) Schools, as its No. 1 choice. The board hopes to seal a three-year contract with Porter and have him in place in a month. But Jara, one of four finalists, could put a wrench in that.
Last Aug. 8, Gov. Rick Scott appointed him superintendent for a term to run until Jan. 7, 2013. He replaced Joe Burke, who resigned last year. Burke had replaced Randy Acevedo, removed from office in 2009 by then-Gov. Charlie Crist following his indictment on misconduct charges.
Acevedo was the last elected Keys schools superintendent, elected to a four-year term in 2008. In 2010, voters said yes to the following referendum question: "Shall the school superintendent of Monroe County be employed by the district School Board upon expiration of the current superintendent's term?"
So technically, Jara is filling out Acevedo's term and if he doesn't find a job come Aug. 1, he has no plans to step down.
"I have a paper here from the governor's office that says I'm here until Jan. 7, 2013," he said. Asked if he plans to stay until then, he said, "If I don't have another opportunity finalized, absolutely."
"Whatever he does, I'm fine," said School Board Chairman John Dick, who cast the lone vote Thursday to retain Jara. "I was not in favor of [Porter] starting Aug. 1."
Vice Chairman Andy Griffiths said he was under the impression Jara's term expires Nov. 15, the same day the winners of this year's School Board elections take office.
"I guess we better find out what that date is," Griffiths said, adding the board needs to ask its attorneys. He said "it was always my intention" to have a one-month overlap during the transition.
Jara said he's a "casualty for saving the district" through troubled financial times and that some of his more unpopular decisions continuing unpaid furlough days for staff and reducing teacher ranks were "made to keep this district from going bankrupt and getting taken over by the state."
"This is what happens when you're in a political position," he said. "I really appreciate the chairman."
Dick's first choice was Jara while the other four board members voted for Porter. If a contract can't be reached with him, the board would look to its second choice, Edward Shine, superintendent of the Rye (N.Y.) City School District. Jara was the board's third choice and Thomas Gay, principal of a Broward County private school, was its fourth.
Earlier this month, Jara lost out on a bid to become superintendent of Springfield (Mass.) Public Schools and withdrew from consideration for the same job in Sante Fe, N.M.
Porter was selected from an initial pool of 56 applicants. The salary range is $125,000 to $150,000. Jara, whom Burke hired in January 2010 to be chief operating officer, earns $135,000 annually.
As for Porter, upon his selection to replace Jara, said, "I'm very pleased personally, as is my wife Jane. I think this is a great opportunity. We're very much looking forward to it and are confident that this will be a great relationship."
Porter has worked in public education since 1978 and started out as a high school teacher. He has a bachelor's degree from St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn., and holds a law degree from the William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, Minn.
He spent four years as director of legal services and human resources for the Rosemont/Apple Valley/Eagan Independent School District in Rosemont, Minn.