St. Johns County School Board Selects New Superintendent
Former deputy superintendent Tim Forson was selected Tuesday as the next superintendent of schools for St. Johns County. The school board voted unanimously Tuesday morning to appoint Forson and planned to begin contract negotiations immediately.
Longtime Superintendent Dr. Joseph Joyner announced plans to retire earlier this year.
“This is hard for me; it was 14 years of my life,” Joyner said. “I love this place. I love it dearly.”
A months-long process that was made even longer by Hurricane Matthew selected Forson and Dr. Vickie Cartwright as finalists and introduced them to the community last week for a last round of input.
Board members praised both candidates and said the decision was much more difficult than the vote indicated.
“With Tim it became very obvious that he had the expertise,” School Board member Bill Mignon said. “Not only does he have expertise but he has passion for the system. He loves the system. He's been a lifelong resident of St. Johns County. He went to our schools, has been an administrator, a teacher. He just brings expertise. Yet he's not close-minded, he's open minded.”
Several members noted that the decision was difficult because the district faces special challenges of rapid growth and expectations to maintain its status as the state's top-ranked school district.
“We don't need a change agent right now. We are doing things well,” board member Beverly Slough said. “We need somebody that will keep us steady to the course and help us to grow."
Cartwright is the senior executive director for Exceptional Student Education for Orange County Public Schools.
Forson recently retired as deputy superintendent of operations for the St. Johns County School District.
“The experience base that he has, especially with all of the things like controlled open enrollment coming at us, it will be very beneficial to have someone familiar with our community and familiar with our district,” Slough said.
In interviews, both candidates agreed that growth is the biggest challenge in the district, including how to handle the current debt but also accommodate new students. They said the half-cent sales tax helps, but it's just the beginning of a long process.
Board members said that if the vote had been taken based on community support, Forson would have won on the first day. Joyner said that support is a huge benefit.
“What distinguishes St. Johns County is this is a community that supports its public school system,” Joyner said. “I think that if not the most essential thing, it's critical. Mr. Forson has nurtured that throughout his career.”
The district tentatively hopes to approve a contract with Forson on either Nov. 22 or Dec. 13.