KISSIMMEE, Fla. – The next leader of one of the fastest growing counties in Florida got some facetime with their future constituents.

What You Need To Know

  • The next superintendent of the School District of Osceola County will be named June 13

  • All four finalists work in school districts in the State of Florida, something that was valuable to some community members

  • In a county where more than half the population is Hispanic, some who attended Monday’s meet-and-greet event hope that the next superintendent will be bilingual

  • Whoever is chosen is likely to take up their leadership role starting July 1

On Monday evening, the School District of Osceola County held a meet-and-greet with the four finalists vying for the position of superintendent. It’s part of the home stretch of evaluations before the school board names its pick.

Out of 32 initial applicants, the candidates were whittled down to seven semifinalists before the final four were selected during a May 30 special school board meeting. The finalists are:

Whoever is chosen will replace outgoing Superintendent Dr. Debra Pace, who has been with the district in various roles for 33 years. She spent the last six of those as the superintendent.

As she introduced the evening’s event, School Board Chair Terry Castillo said that an event like this was an absolute must because community involvement was a top priority in selecting the next district leader.

“There’s been a long time to get to today. We started by narrowing down based on our community’s desires for what they wanted to see in a superintendent,” Castillo said. “And based on those community conversations, we created a profile for the next superintendent.”

Two of the qualifications that made it into the job posting were mandatory. Those were having a master’s degree from an accredited institution and having 10 years of successful administrative or leadership experience in education or business.

The board said they also preferred things like someone with a doctorate degree, experience in a district with 10,000 or more students and successful experience in a multi-cultural school district.

According to the U.S. Census, 56.3 percent of the population in Osceola County is Hispanic or Latino. Juan Martinez, one of the dozens of people who attended Monday’s meet-and-greet, said having someone who is bilingual is a big positive in his mind.

“As you know, this county has maybe 50 [percent] people that live here and speak Spanish and the other 50 that speak English only,” Martinez said. “So, for us it’s very important they understand all the issues they’re going to have and all the types of people that live here.”

While each of the board members have their own opinions on what they value most in a future superintendent, Castillo said there is some common ground.

“The one that I think all board members agree is that we want somebody who’s innovative. And the reason for that is because we have been right at the cusp of being an ‘A’ district for a very long time,” Castillo said. “So, we want someone to take us from that ‘B’ district, that solid ‘B’ district that we are now, into the next level.”

Parents like Tina Tarrence agreed that innovation is needed. She was named as a finalist for last year’s School-Related Employee of the Year award.

“I want somebody with new ideas, somebody who hasn’t been out of the classroom for 20 years or 29 years or 13 years. I want somebody who still understands the climate inside the classroom and somebody who is hands-on. Somebody who is not afraid to make changes.”

She also said that having someone from the State of Florida who is familiar with the state’s laws and guidelines would also be highly beneficial. All four candidate work in Florida school districts.

On June 13, the board will select its choice for the next superintendent and then approve a contract during the June 27 board meeting. They’re targeting a July 1 start date.

Finalist interviews will be available for public consumption on the district’s YouTube page. Community input is being welcomed throughout the remaining decision-making process.