LAND O’LAKES — One of Pasco County’s longest-serving officials has announced plans to make it a career after his current term ends.
School Superintendent Kurt Browning, who won a third term in 2020, said Thursday he would not put his name on another ballot. He has held public office since 1980, when he first won the position of election post supervisor at age 22, including time as Florida Secretary of State under Governors Charlie Crist and Rick Scott.
He resigned from Scott’s administration to run for superintendent. Pasco County is the largest school district in the nation to have an elected superintendent.
Browning, who will be 66 when his term ends, said he made his decision now rather than waiting for the 2024 election cycle to give the system and community enough time to prepare for his departure. .
“It allows us to have minimal disruption and stay focused on work,” Browning said, noting he’s not quitting early. “We are not slowing down. I will probably even press the accelerator pedal even harder.
School board president Cynthia Armstrong said she was not surprised by the news. After all, she said, Browning spent 12 years in that position, which she described as difficult and high stress.
The average term of superintendent nationwide is five to six years – shorter for larger districts. Pasco is one of the 50 largest school systems in the nation.
Armstrong said knowing that Browning’s plans would give the board and administration momentum to achieve some of their goals and initiatives that remain in play, such as striving for an A grade from the state district.
When Browning took office, he lamented the district’s ranking as 36th in the state. In 2021, the district ranked 37th in points for the state scoring system.
“I respect him for giving two years’ notice, so we can make sure we have a number of qualified candidates for this position, because it’s a very important position,” Armstrong said.
Two members of the district’s current administrative team — Assistant Superintendent Kim Moore and Krinn Technical High Superintendent Chris Dunning — are possibilities, as they have signaled interest in conducting their candidacies for Pinellas County’s recent superintendent search. .
A likely candidate is former state senator John Legg, who co-founded and operates the county’s oldest and most successful charter school, Dayspring Academy. Legg holds a doctorate in education and helped shape state education policy for several years as a legislator.
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He played with the race against Browning in 2020, but decided against it. On Thursday, he declined to say whether he would seek the job in 2024, saying he wanted to discuss the idea with his family.
“My wife and I are looking at it seriously, seriously,” said Legg, who has a healthy campaign account remaining from his state Senate campaigns. “I will make a decision tonight and make a public statement tomorrow. I love this community.
He praised Browning for his efforts leading the district through difficult times, including the pandemic, responses to the Parkland school shooting, rapid growth and other situations as they arose. .
“All I can say is well done, sir,” Legg said. “It was a challenge to overcome.”
Browning has faced criticism over the years for his handling of numerous issues, including student masks, attendance zone changes and LGBTQ student services in the district. Shortly after his announcement became public, one of the parents who attends board meetings posted on social media that it would be better if he left now.
Browning said he knew some people would never be happy no matter what he did. They won’t distract him from his job, he said, adding that he didn’t make up his mind because of those parents.
“The political environment today is very vitriolic. It’s very petty,” he said. “I just don’t have enough gas in my tank to drive through (a countryside) again.”
He said he hoped that when people reflect on his tenure, they would see the progress the district has made in areas such as providing more school choices and recognize that “I care deeply about each of the children whom we have the opportunity to educate.”
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