Superintendent search reopened for Nevada candidate, who quickly drops out

The search for a new Broward schools superintendent is open again, after School Board members learned a large-district superintendent was interested in the job.

But the candidacy of Jesus Jara, superintendent in Clark County, Nev., was brief.

Broward School Board Chairwoman Lori Alhadeff said Tuesday morning that Jara contacted her on Monday saying he was interested in the job. But Jara told the South Florida Sun Sentinel in a statement Tuesday night he plans to stay put.

“After being urged to apply, I am honored to be considered for the superintendent position in Broward County,” he said.

“Clark County is my home, and I am committed to this community and our kids,” his statement reads. “I will remain as superintendent to continue the work I started five years ago. We are designing systems that previously did not exist and have assembled the team with the skills and talents to serve our kids and raise their academic performance.”

During Tuesday’s meeting, Alhadeff suggested adding Jara’s name to the pool of qualified candidates. Board members decided instead to open the search up to others who may want to apply.

The new deadline to apply will be May 16, and the board on May 22 plans to select semifinalists, who will submit videos about themselves to the School Board by May 26. Finalists are scheduled to be selected May 30 with a final decision made on June 15.

Jara has been superintendent in the 300,0000-student Clark County school district since 2018. He has faced a contentious relationship with his School Board. After meeting with the board in closed session in October 2021 to discuss a “hostile and abusive work environment,” he was fired by a 4-3 vote, according to KTNV-Ch. 13 in Las Vegas.

“The following week, Dr. Jara’s attorney informed the board he was seeking $2 million to resolve allegations of harassment by three of the trustees who originally ousted him. … Two weeks later, Dr. Jara was reinstated,” the news station reported.

Alhadeff said earlier Tuesday she thinks that Broward can be an attractive option for superintendents from elsewhere in the country.

“I think that there’s new opportunity,” she said after the School Board meeting. “It is beautiful to live here in South Florida, and we have amazing students and amazing teachers here in Broward County Public Schools. So this is such an exceptional opportunity for someone who come here and lead this school district.”

Board member Torey Alston said he has also spoken with at least at least five sitting superintendents about the Broward job, but he declined to name any except for Jara. He said he wanted to give other qualified applicants a chance to apply.

“I don’t want there to be a perception that there may be only one or two candidates the board is really interested in,” he said. “For me, that’s far from the truth.”

The School Board initially got 26 applications, 15 of whom met minimum qualifications. A consulting firm recommended the School Board look at six candidates, although one, Palm Beach County schools administrator Keith Oswald, dropped out this week.

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The others recommended by Nebraska search firm McPherson and Jacobson are Peter Licata, regional superintendent, Palm Beach County School District; Jason Nault, associate superintendent of teaching and learning, equity and accountability, Waukegan, Ill., and a former Broward principal; Wanda Paul, chief operating officers for the Houston Independent School District; Luis Solano, deputy superintendent for the Detroit Public Schools Community District; and Valerie Wanza, chief of staff for Broward schools.

Wanza is a favorite of Interim Superintendent Earlean Smiley and most employee groups, but at least one member, Alhadeff, said she would prefer someone from the outside.

“I feel personally that it should be an external candidate to come in to try to change the culture, someone with a new perspective who can look at what is going on here in Broward County Public Schools,” she said.

Several board members have said they are looking for a “transformational leader” to fix a district that has faced turmoil in recent years due to a mass shooting, a scathing grand jury report and frequent turnover in leadership.

Wanza declined to comment at the end of the meeting.