Lee County school district must search for new superintendent

Published: April 16, 2021 8:10 PM EDT
Updated: April 17, 2021 3:55 PM EDT

The School District of Lee County must begin searching for an educator to replace Superintendent Greg Adkins, since he announced Friday he will retire at the end of his contract June 30.

This leaves the future of Florida’s ninth largest school district up in the air.

Adkins received a round of applause before and after he spoke at Lee County Public Education Center to announce his retirement after 33 years with the District and five years as superintendent. Although Adkins certainly received a positive sendoff, his evaluations from three members of Lee County School Board also show there was scrutiny of his job performance. The other four board members were clearly supporters of Adkins in his role.

Board members Mary Fischer, Chris Patricca, Debbie Jordan and Cathleen Morgan shared positive evaluations and widely praised Adkins for his response to COVID-19 and his work to improve the mental and social health of students.

Betsy Vaughan, Gwyn Gittens and Melisa Giovannelli were more critical in their evaluations.

Giovannelli’s review was the longest, most detailed and most critical. She wrote in part, “You encouraged false investigations/complaints to be made by your staff against board members without board members’ knowledge.” She also wrote, “You failed to protect whistle-blower employees that came forward for protection.”

These evaluations are, however, from May of 2020. WINK News has requested 2021 reviews from the district but is still waiting to hear back.

Gittens noted “missed opportunities” during the pandemic to help students who fell behind as the achievement gap worsened.

Adkins told reporters Friday he is not leaving because of recent controversy related to LGBTQ bathroom concerns from parents and community members that suddenly became hotly contested.

Gittens told us Adkins’ retirement brings an opportunity for the District to move forward and reflect on how they all can do better.

“When someone leaves, it is an opportunity to sit down, take the puzzle pieces all off the table and start putting them back,” Gittens said. “Some may not go back on the table, and some might take a different configuration.”

We asked some board members what they are looking for in the next superintendent to help put that puzzle back together.

“I think we need to make sure that we have somebody who is going to work collectively,” Jordan said. “That has the ability to keep everybody united.”

“I want to see somebody who really, really, really respects the role of teachers in site-based decision-making,” Vaughn said. “What I want to see is the best qualified individual.”

Still, there is a noticeable divide among board members. We asked Akdins what the experience is handling a split like that among education leaders.

“The beauty of the United States of America is we are a very diverse country,” Adkins said. “Diversity of opinion is also something I think we should praise because it brings all those opinions to the table.”

There was no immediately-announced action plan regarding a search for a new superintended Friday upon Adkins announcement.

“I really truly want to thank you for allowing me to be a part of building a better future for our children together,” Adkins said during his address.