Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

School Board Selects Fryer

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

School Board Selects Fryer

Article excerpt

A decision by the Duval County School Board to look to a

charismatic retired general as the next superintendent is

drawing praise from a variety of parents, educators, business

and community leaders.

"Excellent choice," said developer Preston Haskell. "There's no

question we have a man here who is a unique combination of

educator and organizational leader."

State Rep. Steve Wise, R-Jacksonville, described the selection

of retired Air Force Maj. Gen. John Fryer as "absolutely superb."

And Mandarin parent Merrie Smith, the incoming Duval County

PTA president, finally admitted, "He was my pick."

Mingled with the praise is some concern from teachers and

principals about Fryer's lack of experience in public education,

though he has led the country's National War College.

The plea from educators: Please listen to us.

"My strong hope is that he will rely on and listen to those of

us in the system who are at least as committed to educational

reform as he is," said Jim Williams, principal of Paxon School

for Advanced Studies.

School Board members yesterday voted 6-1 to narrow the field of

two finalists to one, selecting Fryer over former Wichita, Kan.,

superintendent Larry Vaughn.

The next steps are to bring Fryer in for individual interviews

with board members, possibly the weekend of June 13-14, and to

sketch out a new superintendent's contract. Another vote is

expected before Fryer is actually offered that contract.

But his support on the board is strong. "He's a gift from God,"

School Board Chairwoman Linda Sparks said after the meeting.

She, and other board members, cited Fryer's record of

international military leadership, charismatic personality and

enthusiasm for the superintendent's job in selecting him over


The vote was initially 5-2 but board member Jimmie Johnson

changed his vote before the meeting ended. He had voted for

Vaughn, indicating the veteran educator's experience was the


But Johnson changed his vote because he said he wanted to show

unity for the board's choice. He has repeatedly said both men

were strong candidates.

Johnson wondered aloud during the meeting whether the other

dissenter, Gwen Gibson, also would change her vote. Gibson

remained silent.

She said little before casting her no vote and declined comment

after the 11 a.m. meeting. Earlier, she expressed concern about

Fryer's understanding of K-12 education and the needs of


Fryer, reached yesterday afternoon in California, said he

called Gibson after learning about the meeting's outcome.

"I let her know I would support her very, very much and would

work with her closely and would get to know her," he said. …

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