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Elia studies bid to lead Florida schools
The Hillsborough superintendent has until July 13 to apply.
By LETITIA STEIN
Published July 4, 2007
Two years ago, MaryEllen Elia was named superintendent in Hillsborough, the third-largest district in Florida. She has spent 21 years in the system, working her way up from a reading resource specialist to the top of the administrative ranks.
TAMPA – In the search for a new Florida schools chief, state leaders may not have to look any further than Hillsborough County.
Superintendent MaryEllen Elia is thinking about putting her name in.
"I'm considering it, " said Elia, who said she has received phone calls urging her to think about applying for state education commissioner.
At the moment, she is stressing her ties to home.
"I'm very attuned to Hillsborough County schools, " Elia said, "and I have work to do here."
Hopefuls have until July 13 to enter the race for the job of leading Florida's public schools, community colleges, work force education and other related programs.
The position pays between $195, 000 and $275, 000 annually for overseeing an education department with an annual budget of more than $23-billion.
So far, the job has drawn only six applicants, most of them educators working in smaller settings. One candidate with a significant resume is William Moloney, who recently resigned as Colorado's education commissioner after a decade on the job.
A handful of names with statewide profiles are being floated. They include Cheri Yecke, Florida's K-12 chancellor, and Jim Warford, a former superintendent who once held Yecke's job.
Other prospects include lawmakers involved in education issues, such as state Rep. Joe Pickens, R-Palatka, and Sen. Evelyn Lynn, R-Ormond Beach. Another name mentioned is Octavio Visiedo, a former Miami-Dade superintendent.
T. Willard Fair, chairman of the state Board of Education, is confident the consultants hired to run the search will net a strong pool of candidates.
"For this kind of position, a lot of people aren't going to apply on the first day an ad hits the paper, " he said. "They are waiting to see who else applies."
Fair noted that out-of-state candidates may have held off to see that no one has an inside track.
Elia, 58, declined to identify the people who approached her about applying.
Two years ago, she was named superintendent in Hillsborough, the third-largest district in Florida. She has spent 21 years in the system, working her way up from a reading resource specialist to the top of the administrative ranks.
While her tenure has seen some controversies, Elia's profile is rising statewide. She recently was appointed to the state's FCAT advisory panel, created after the discovery of a scoring error in last year's third-grade scores. She is on the board of directors for the statewide superintendents association.
For now, she is not saying much about her interest in the state's top education job.
"It's been floated, " she said of a possible candidacy. "But I'm really committed to Hillsborough County schools."
Times staff writer Ron Matus contributed to this report. Letitia Stein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.