Brevard County schools superintendent semifinalists talk vouchers, workforce education

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They come from a variety of backgrounds, ranging from retired military to former school principals and coaches to Exceptional Student Education teachers.

They all hail from Florida, with two of them already residing in the county.

As the Brevard School Board prepares to further narrow its selection for district superintendent from 11 semifinalists, board members and the public can look through videos and written responses from each candidate.

All answered questions sent in by the board with a focus on House Bill 1 and its expansion of school vouchers, preparing students for the workforce and dealing with negative comments or criticism as superintendent. In the written questions, they were asked what issues they would prioritize and what role the central office of the district plays.

On Tuesday, at a 9 a.m. school board meeting, the board is set to choose their finalists. On-site interviews will take place April 27 and 28, and the superintendent will be chosen May 2.

Semifinalists' resumes, as well as their written and video responses, can be viewed on BPS' website.

Who are the 11 candidates?

Ernie Lozano has worked in Broward County Schools for the past 25 years in various capacities, with jobs ranging from teacher, curriculum specialist, assistant principal and principal to cadre director, executive director over threat assessment and most recently, task assigned chief of staff.

Ernie Lozano: Semifinalist for Brevard Superintendent of Schools

This most recent position, which he served in from September 2022 to February 2023, allowed him to oversee Broward’s policy review project to ensure policies were current and in compliance with federal and state statutes, according to his resume. He also currently works as the executive director of behavioral threat assessments for Broward County Public Schools.

Lozano is a current student in a doctoral program for K-12 Educational Leadership at Florida Atlantic University and holds an M.Ed. in Educational Leadership from Florida Atlantic University.

In his video submitted to BPS, he focused heavily on staying competitive with the passage of HB1, which expands school voucher eligibility.

“To be competitive, the district needs a superintendent who creates a climate of high expectations and strong instructional leadership," Lozano said. “The expansion of school choice will require us to be fiscally conservative in our decision-making and prioritize how we manage our finances.”

Scott Schneider works as the chief of schools in Duval County Public Schools, a position he has held since 2021. Prior to that, he worked as region superintendent of high and alternative schools from 2019 to 2021, and principal of Robert E. Lee High School in Duval County from 2011 to 2019. He holds a master's in education leadership from University of North Florida. He was awarded Administrator of the Year honors by the Florida School Counselor Association in 2017, as well as the Laurel K. Anderson Award by the First Coast Counseling Association the same year.

Scott Schneider: Semifinalist for Brevard Superintendent of Schools

Schneider encouraged the utilization of internships and on-the-job education, suggesting that BPS partner as much as possible with local businesses to prepare students for the workforce.

“Let’s be innovative and bold by showing our commitment to students, businesses and community through excellence and workforce readiness," he said.

James Larsen currently works as the senior executive director of federal grants at Orange County Public Schools, a job he has held since August 2022. In that role, he manages the more-than-$1 billion Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief fund, collaborates with other departments and researches successful educational models for areas of need, among other duties. Prior to that position, he served as area superintendent for Southwest Learning Community in Orlando; adjunct instructor at University of Florida; executive area director for the minority achievement office; various positions within the Orange County Public School district; and several principal, assistant principal or administrative dean positions at schools around Orlando and one in Pine Hills

James Larsen: Semifinalist for Brevard Superintendent of Schools

Larsen holds a doctorate of education in educational leadership from the University of Central Florida.

Larsen said he plans to improve BPS' competitiveness through increasing academic scores, expanding career and technical education and engaging in collaborative conversations with stakeholders.

"School choice should be looked at as an opportunity to continue improving the public education system," he said.

Mark Rendell has 30 years in public education, most recently working as principal at Cocoa Beach Junior-Senior High School. a position he has served in since 2019. Before that, he worked in numerous positions, including superintendent of Indian River County’s school district; deputy superintendent for St. Lucie Public Schools; assistant superintendent in the same district; principal or assistant principal at multiple schools around the country, including four in Brevard County; adjunct professor at Nova Southeastern University; and social studies teacher for Arlington Public Schools in Virginia and Brevard Public Schools. Rendell holds an Ed.D in educational leadership from University of Central Florida.

Mark J. Rendell: Semifinalist for Brevard Superintendent of Schools

Rendell said focusing on preparing students for the space industry will be a priority.

“We need to do our part to provide the human capital to sustain the growth of that industry right here in Brevard," he said.

J. Rebecca Raulerson works as regional assistant superintendent for Polk County Public Schools, a position she has held since 2022. Prior to that, she worked as executive director of Duval County Public Schools Middle School Region; principal at Westside High School in Duval County; principal at Joseph Stilwell Military Academy of Leadership in Duval County; assistant principal of curriculum at Joseph Stilwell Middle School in Duval County; assistant principal at Andrew Jackson High School in Duval County; and mathematics teacher at Sandalwood High School in Duval County.

J. Rebecca Raulerson: Semifinalist for Brevard Superintendent of Schools

Raulerson will graduate this spring with a doctorate of education from Florida State University. Her dissertation examines the influence of corrective reading in Duval County Public Schools.

Regarding HB1, Raulerson said its expansion of a temporary teaching certification and the waiver of the general education requirement for those who have been deemed effective or highly effective for three consecutive years will be beneficial.

“I think it rewards teachers; it rewards the process," she said. "I think it will also be a positive for districts as we decrease our vacancies and we can really work through a more appropriate timeline to get teachers certified."

John Stratton is the superintendent of Hernando County Schools, a position he has served in since 2018. Previously, he worked as Hernando County Schools’ executive director of business services, the district’s executive director of academic services and principal or assistant principal for four schools within the district between 2005 and 2016. He also worked in several positions in Citrus County, including as a behavioral/staffing specialist and ESE teacher, and also worked as an ESE teacher at Hamilton Disston School in Pinellas County.

John Stratton: Semifinalist for Brevard Superintendent of Schools

He holds a master of education in educational leadership from the University of South Florida.

Stratton encourages involving students and even teachers in Brevard's industries, or bringing industry professionals into the classroom.

“Industry drives what happens in career and technical education. Industry helps create or creates the curriculum. Industry comes in, works beside those students,” he said. “I think the collaborative efforts are endless.”

Jason Wysong has been the deputy superintendent for Seminole County Public Schools since 2021. He has worked in the district since 2007 in various positions, including executive director of instructional excellence and system equity; executive director of education pathways and strategic partnerships; director of education pathways and strategic partnerships; coordinator for the Race to the Top, differentiated accountability and response to interventions; assistant principal at Lake Brantley High School; and dean of students at the same school. Prior to coming to Seminole County, he worked as a social studies teacher and debate coach at Trinity Preparatory School in Winter Park and Cypress Creek High School in Orlando.

Jason C. Wysong: Semifinalist for Brevard Superintendent of Schools

He holds an Ed.D in educational leadership from University of Central Florida, as well as an Ed.S in educational leadership from University of Central Florida.

One way to prepare students for the workforce is through helping better educate their teachers, Wysong said.

“We should … consider the feasibility of paid summer externships for faculty members, especially those teaching specialized and advanced STEM courses," he said. "If our teachers experience even a few weeks of work in the innovation economy, our students will reap considerable benefits.”

Mark Vianello is the chief operations officer for Marion County Public Schools, a position he has held since 2022. Prior to that, he served as deputy superintendent for Marion County Public Schools from 2020 to 2022. His previous experience includes working as executive director of career and technical education for the district, executive director of student services for the district, principal at two Marion County schools, and ESE teacher at two Marion County Schools and Edgewater High School in Orange County.

Mark Vianello: Semifinalist for Brevard Superintendent of Schools

He holds a master of science in educational leadership.

Vianello said he believes BPS can "excel in competition" with the passage of HB1, and that making public schools appealing is a matter of communication between the district, its schools and the public.

"What we’re going to have to do is tell the story of public education better than what we’ve ever done before," he said. "We’re going to have to allocate resources so schools can tell their story, and the district can tell its story.”

Stephen Kingston is the only applicant without a background in public education. Kingston, a retired U.S. Navy captain, is a 40-year resident of Florida, with 16 of those years spent in Brevard.

Capt. Stephen Kingston, US Navy (ret.): Semifinalist for Brevard Superintendent of Schools

In the Navy, he worked as a training and educational service officer, responsible for ensuring the training and technical acumen for service. Additionally, he was chief staff officer to Commander Airborne Early Warning Wing Pacific, which required him to manage and execute a $255,000,000 personnel budget and operating budget with no cost overruns. His other professional experiences include serving as an air officer, CEO of DASC Global Solutions, commanding officer of fleet logistics support squadron three zero and senior program manager at Honeywell Technologies Solutions Inc.

Kingston holds a bachelor of science in resource management from the U.S. Naval Academy and a master’s degree in national security and strategic studies from the U.S. Naval War College.

Prior to answering questions from the board, Kingston spoke about his ideas for the district.

“We’re here to educate our children, we’re not here to indoctrinate them,” he said. “We need to provide them with the basic building blocks of life, which is reading, writing, arithmetic, science, technology, engineering, mathematics — all things needed.”

Kim Moore is Pasco County Schools’ assistant superintendent for career and innovative programs. Prior to taking on the role in 2019, she worked in Hillsborough County as the director of administration for the district, principal or assistant principal for various programs at Middleton High School in Tampa, professional development supervisor for the Office of Federal Programs in the same district and executive director for Maxwell Leadership in Jupiter. She currently works as an adjunct faculty member at Nova Southeastern University. She previously worked as a district resource teacher and science teacher in Hillsborough County, and as an adjunct professor in the college of business at Tampa’s University of Phoenix campus. Additionally, she is retired from the U.S. Army.

Kim D. Moore: Semifinalist for Brevard Superintendent of Schools

Moore holds a doctorate of education in organizational leadership and an educational specialist in educational leadership, both from Nova Southeastern University.

Moore said the district can use aspects of HB1 to their advantage to improve education.

"Through increased funding, teacher incentive, innovative programs and data-driven decision making, we can transform our education system from the 100-year-old factory model and give our students the education they deserve," she said.

Peter Licata has worked for Palm Beach County’s school district since 1994, where he is the regional superintendent of the south regional, a position he has held since 2019. Previously, he worked in multiple positions, including assistant superintendent for choice and innovation/director of choice and career options; area director of quality assurance; district director of secondary curriculum and school improvement; principal or assistant principal at several schools in the district; and teacher and basketball coach at Olympic Heights High School and John F. Kennedy Middle School. He also worked as an associate graduate professor at Florida Atlantic University in the principal internship program for the Department of Educational Leadership and Research Methodology.

Peter B. Licata: Semifinalist for Brevard Superintendent of Schools

Licata has a Ph.D in global leadership from Lynn University.

He said the best way to handle competition is to be "continually proactive" and to make improvements within the district.

“We have to make sure that we’re not playing defense,” he said. “Let’s look within — what can we do to make sure that when a parent researches what school is best for their child, it starts with Brevard County public schools?”