Hillsborough schools superintendent agrees to improve his performance

The Hillsborough County School Board and Superintendent Addison Davis agreed Tuesday on a plan for Davis to improve his performance from harsh criticism from some employees.

Under the board's plan, Davis will have to focus on seven areas of concern: climate and culture, stakeholder trust, leadership style, board member relationship, communication, learning environment, and way of work.

"It comes back to me adjusting and adapting and reflecting and having a mindset of where I got hired in March to where we are now due to the COVID, the finances and interactions with our leaders," Davis said. "So by September, you're definitely going to see a staircase approach to making adjustments."'

Board Chair Lynn Gray said, while all categories of improvement are important, culture is at the top of her list.

"That whole culture, it’s interconnected and it’s positive and it’s very much routine because children need a sense of stability and they need certain procedures and they also need a culture of safety and security," Gray said.

Davis agreed he can get better, but pointed out his time as superintendent has been a roller coaster.

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He was hired in March 2020, just as the COVID-19 pandemic hit the region. He has since had to navigate a series of issues related to the virus, including school closures, masks and COVID-19 safety measures.

Since then, he's been dealing with a financial crisis that began about a decade ago. The budget deficit exceeds $100 million and the district has until May 12 to present a solution to the Florida Department of Education or face a possible state takeover.

Davis has said about 1,000 jobs need to be cut, mostly through attrition, retirements and job transfers. But his communication and leadership style came into question when about 100 teachers were notified via email last month that they were losing their jobs. He apologized during a recent board meeting for the way those layoffs unfolded.

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"All that snowballs, on top of a pandemic in a budget crisis, it creates angst," he said Tuesday, adding his plans include, "building relationships with principals, AP's, understanding the Hillsborough historical picture. I haven’t really been able to do that alongside trying every single day to fight for this district to stay out of receivership."

The board has a special meeting scheduled for Thursday. Davis and board members said they're confident they'll be able to iron out the details of a plan to submit to Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran by May 12.