By ALLISON ROSS
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Three finalists will be interviewing today to be the next leader of the nation’s 11th-largest school district, but a fourth name keeps coming up: Interim Superintendent E. Wayne Gent.
“Gent is the one we want,” Afifa Khaliq, state director of the Florida Public Services Union, said Tuesday after her group released a statement endorsing Gent.
When Gent took over as temporary superintendent in November, he signed a contract barring him from applying for the permanent position. But that hasn’t stopped groups from pushing his name.
On Tuesday, Gent also picked up an endorsement from the Association of Educational Secretaries and Office Professionals . Meanwhile, the Classroom Teachers Association, the county’s teachers union, on Tuesday mentioned Gent’s name even as it endorsed Constance Jones, chief academic officer of the Lee County School District.
“We’ve had a good working relationship with Gent, but since he’s not a candidate, we can’t go there,” CTA Executive Director Tony Hernandez said. If Gent becomes a candidate, the teachers union will interview him and decide whether to switch its endorsement, he said.
Jones will be interviewing today alongside Janis Andrews, assistant superintendent of curriculum and learning support for the Palm Beach County School District, and Tom Watkins, former superintendent of public instruction for the state of Michigan and former president and chief executive of the Economic Council of Palm Beach County.
A number of other groups and individuals also have pleaded with the school board in recent weeks to allow Gent to be considered for the permanent position.
“I don’t know the interim superintendent, Mr. Gent, but I’ve heard from countless people across this large district that he’s earned their trust,” Rita Solnet, an education activist from Boca Raton, told the school board last week.
Gent didn’t respond to calls from The Palm Beach Post.
When asked last week whether he might consider allowing Gent to apply, school board member Chuck Shaw said he wanted to get a better feel for the other candidates.
If none of them impresses him, he said, “then we reconsider.”
School board Chairman Frank Barbieri said Tuesday that he expects, in light of public comments, board members will want to discuss Gent during today’s school board meeting.
School board member Jenny Prior Brown, however, has said she would like to see the board choose from the list of finalists it created.
“I’m committed to selecting one of these three,” Brown said. Click here