Sunday, January 08, 2012

Meet One Of The Two Finalists To Replace Anchorage School Superintendent Carol Comeau: Jim Browder, The Florida Outsider

Update January 31st: The Anchorage School District announced the selection of Jim Browder to succeed Carol Comeau as school superintendent.

The selection process to replace Anchorage School Superintendent Carol Comeau, who will retire effective June 30th, 2012, has been narrowed down to two finalists: Steve Atwater, the current superintendent of the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District (9,000 students), and Jim Browder, recently the superintendent of Lee County Schools in Florida (82,000 students). The Anchorage Daily News reported that each finalist would get a three-day whirlwind visit to tour local schools, participate in lengthy School Board interviews, go on talk radio and meet the Anchorage Assembly, the mayor and the public. The Anchorage School District has the complete application packages on each finalist accessible HERE for public review.

During the past week, Jim Browder was up first. Browder was Lee County Superintendent from 2003-2010. He then took a job as an executive at Edison State College in Fort Myers but had a short and stormy tenure. Faculty at the college complained Browder had been hired without a search and thought he was being paid too much. A series of news videos provides the opportunity to see and hear him.

KTVA news video from January 6th is available, but is just a brief overview:

KYUR Channel 13 aired a story entitled "Browder Meet & Greet: Says No Cronyism" on January 6th. Browder appeared at a public meet & greet attended by 50 people. He addressed a report about Pastor James Gillespie of Ft. Meyers Florida, who claims he's known Browder for 20 years and accuses Browder of things like cronyism, saying he was allegedly hired by his friend Kenneth Walker, President of Edison Community College. Gillespie also claims Browder was ousted from the position as a result of a community outcry. In response, Browder said he has no idea who Gillespie is and denies any cronyism, saying he has always hired the most qualified person for the job. Browder admitted that he does know Walker, but says Walker hired him because he was the best candidate. Browder also mentioned in the past that some folks were upset there wasn't a superintendent search at the time. He also said he was not kicked out of of the district, but chose to leave on his own. KYUR has an interview with Pastor Gillespie:

However, Browder was aware that these issues would surface, and three weeks prior, addressed them in another interview with KYUR entitled "ASD Applicant Search: Jim Browder Speaks Out", which aired on December 19th:

Browder said there were some faculty members not happy with his hire and pay range at Edison Community College, noting that they didn't like the fact he didn't have to go through a selection process and were concerned about his lack of post-secondary experience. But Browder said he chose to leave the position after about 6 months because he felt uncomfortable.

Interesting choice. Steve Atwater knows Alaska, has no controversy attached to his record, but the district he currently heads only has 9,000 students. In contrast, Jim Browder doesn't know Alaska, but headed a district with 82,000 students and has some controversy attached at the tail end of his record. The Anchorage School District has just under 50,000 students. Those of us who've been in Anchorage more than 10 years know what it's like to have a controversial superintendent; Bob Chrystal's tenure was pockmarked with contract issues and outbreaks of industrial action by school district workers. At this point, I lean slightly towards Atwater, because ASD has enough administrative personnel to help Atwater get used to running a larger district early, but I recommend waiting to hear from him on December 13th.


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  3. Browder was actually my High School principle back in 1988.
    I can see his hair implants didnt take well. Heheheh.....
    We used to make fun of that when I was in school.

    Regardless, I will say, I respected him then, and he took independant time with me, as a student, and my school was probably one of the best high schools in the Lee County School District.