Kathryn LeRoy has never been a superintendent, but her supporters tout her background in academics and curriculum reform.
And the man who hired LeRoy in the Duval County, Fla., district where she now works has no doubts she is ready for the job as Beaufort County School District superintendent.
"She has the knowledge, drive, leadership and passion needed to be a highly effective superintendent," retired Duval County Public Schools superintendent Ed Pratt-Dannals wrote in a recommendation letter.
LeRoy will appear Thursday in the second of three public forums to introduce finalists for Beaufort County superintendent. The other finalists are Jeffrey Moss, superintendent of Lee County Schools in Sanford, N.C., and Gloria Davis, superintendent of Decatur Public Schools in Decatur, Ill.
Never miss a local story.
The board hopes to have a new superintendent under contract by the first week in March, board chairman Bill Evans said, although the selected candidate would probably not start until July 1. The chosen candidate's salary would be "in the range of $215,000," according to the job posting.
LeRoy is director of high school programs for the 125,000-student Duval County Public Schools in Jacksonville, Fla. LeRoy came to Duval County from Miami-Dade in 2007 to be the district's chief math and science officer and was promoted to chief academic officer in 2008, according to her resume.
LeRoy oversaw curriculum, instruction, assessment and professional development for about 180 schools and managed $195 million of an annual district budget of $1.6 billion, her resume states.
Duval County Public Schools is the 22nd-largest school district in the nation and sixth-largest in Florida, according to the district's website.
Like Beaufort County, more than half -- 55.3 percent -- of its students receive free or reduced-price lunch, a commonly accepted measure of poverty within a school district.
PASSED OVER FOR TOP POST
This isn't LeRoy's first audition for a superintendent's job. She's been turned down by other school boards, including her own.
LeRoy was a semifinalist in the Duval County School Board's search but was passed over this past fall in favor of an outsider, LeRoy said. She was among seven finalists in Baltimore County, Md., earlier this year. She also is a finalist for the superintendent job in Manatee County, Fla., and interviewed for that position Monday.
LeRoy said she has been working toward a superintendent position for about a year, and "Beaufort seems to be a perfect match," with "good academic achievement scores" and a "historic setting."
"I'm prepared and ready to be superintendent and help support student achievement and bring the community together as a team to support children, teachers and administrators," LeRoy said.
Duval County School Board member Paula Wright wrote in a recommendation letter that as an academic officer, LeRoy narrowed student-achievement gaps in several subjects.
The board debated whether to select LeRoy as a semifinalist, according to The Florida Times-Union, and narrowly voted 4-3 to interview her, after Wright made a case for her.
"One of the things people pinged her on was her interpersonal skills," Sharon Cox of search firm McPherson and Jacobson LLC told the board Aug. 16, the Times-Union reported.
Attempts Tuesday to reach Wright and other members of the Duval County School Board were unsuccessful.
SCHOOL GRADES, GRAD RATE IMPROVE
LeRoy has "extreme skill in tailoring" instruction to best fit students' socio-economic backgrounds, according to the Beaufort County school board's search firm, Ray and Associates.
"This approach allowed her to significantly raise academic accomplishments for the entire district," according to the firm.
All Duval County high schools scored "A," "B" or "C" in 2012, according to Florida school accountability reports. Ninety percent increased or maintained their letter grade for that year.
One high school rose three letter grades, from "F" to "B," according to the report. In 2007, only 31.6 percent of the schools had grades of a "C" or better, according to state education reports.
The district, however, dropped from a "B" to a "C" between 2011 and 2012, according to the Florida Department of Education.
About 68 percent of Duval County high school seniors graduate on time, compared to about 54 percent five years ago -- below the state average of 74.46 percent, according to state education officials.
Patricia Willis, retired deputy superintendent of the Duval County Public Schools worked closely with LeRoy for several years and was her supervisor for part of her tenure.
Willis said LeRoy is a "gifted and talented educator" and avid researcher who would do well as superintendent. As for concerns about her "interpersonal skills," Willis said LeRoy has built "great rapport" with district officials and "goes above and beyond to work with community organizations."
"She knows how to build a team and staff around her to get the job done," she said. "She's a quick study. She learns fast and would do well."
- The Florida Times-Union -- Duval superintendent semifinalist Kathryn LeRoy's strength also an obstacle: Aug. 25, 2012
- Bradenton Herald -- Six finalists for Manatee superintendent job face the school board: Feb. 12, 2013
- Duval County, Fla., Public Schools
- School Facts Jax
- Florida School Grades
- Beaufort superintendent candidate Moss visionary to some, despite outburst caught on video: Feb. 11, 2013
- Three finalists named for Beaufort County School District superintendent: Feb. 7, 2013