Polk Co. School Board appoints superintendent

- The Polk County School District may soon have a new top leader. Tuesday, at a work session, the School Board asked Interim Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd to take the job.

"It's just, to me, the wisest decision at this time we could make for our students," said board member Hazel Sellers.

Two months ago, Deputy Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd stepped up as Interim Superintendent. Interim was all she intended.

"At this point," Byrd said in February, "I don't have a desire to be, but I am committed to this district."

Fast forward two months: The board is asking the 25-year educator to take the top leadership job for a one-year trial period.

After accepting, Byrd said, "I believe it will be good for us to have a time of consistency and stabilization to move forward as we continue to work for our students. Our frame of mind is always on the impact and the end result for our children."

Stabilization is needed after a bumpy year. Previous Superintendent Kathryn LeRoy resigned February 12 after being cleared of sexual harassment allegations from one of her male employees.

The school district launched a national search. That search came to a sudden halt Tuesday after Byrd's name came up.

"One by one, every board member said, we have heard nothing but positive things from our community," Sellers said. "We heard many people in Polk County weren't happy about having a national search. They wanted it local."

The spur of the moment decision scored low marks with Citizens for Better Educational Leadership, which called it a "major, major failure for the elected school board."

They said they wanted community input and then they do this and make this decision independently and just expect everyone to say, oh okay that's fine, and it's not fine," said former Polk County teacher Wendy Bradshaw.

The group isn't necessarily upset about who the board decided on, but how they decided. They're concerned about a lack of transparency, public notice and input.

"She has a job to do and hopefully she is going to do that to the best of her ability if the school board didn't do theirs the way they said they were going to," Bradshaw said.

Though Byrd couldn't speak on camera Tuesday, she shared this message a unity shortly after taking the interim job. "There is a lot of unrest right now," Byrd said. "We just need to take a deep breath. We are going to be ok. Take one day at a time. We need to come together.

The salary for the Polk Superintendent job is advertised between $210,000 and $260,000, plus a benefits package.

Byrd does not officially have the job yet. There are still contract negotiations and an official School Board approval set for April 26.

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