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The Manatee County School Board elects a new superintendent to replace Saunders

Five people dressed in business casual stand in front of a white wall and county school board seal.
Manatee County School Board website
Members of the Manatee County School Board held a special meeting Tuesday to choose a new Superintendent, following the retirement of Cynthia Saunders.

In a 4-1 vote, the Manatee County School Board elected Jason Wysong as the new superintendent for the district.

The Manatee School Board held a special meeting on Tuesday to vote on a new superintendent for the district.

After an hours long meeting and continued back-and-forth between members, the board voted 4-1 to name Jason Wysong Superintendent, with only Board Chairman Chad Choate voting no.

Members agreed no finalist checked all their boxes.

The choices were Scott Schneider, who has served as Chief of Schools in Duval County since 2021; Doug Wagner, an internal candidate who has served as Deputy Superintendent of Operations in Manatee County since 2018; and Wysong, who has served as Deputy Superintendent of Seminole County since 2021.

Board member Mary Foreman says the only candidate she would rank as acceptable was Wysong.

“I value substance rather than style," she said. "And Dr. Wysong is the only candidate with qualifications.”

Despite having as much financial experience as the other candidates, the board said it was Wysong's strength in academics that helped cement his selection.

Headshot of a white man in a blue suit smiling with light hair and blue eyes.
Manatee County Schools
The Manatee County School Board chooses Dr. Jason C. Wysong to take over as the Superintendent in the school district.

Prior to his time with Seminole County Schools, he served as the Executive Director of Instructional Excellence and System Equity and Executive Director of Education Pathways and Strategic Partnerships in Seminole County.

The district used the Florida School Board Association, or FSBA, to find their candidates.

Even though board members thanked the FSBA for their work, some suggested hiring an interim superintendent while expanding the search. Others asserted the grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence.

But Choate said "the buck stops" with the board.

“We're the ones that have to make this decision," he said. "FSBA delivered, the community delivered with their responses, and now we've got to be one to make the decision.”

"I just want to point out that who we're picking today is a CEO of a billion dollar business," board member Gina Messenger said. "That's what this is, this person is going to be our CEO."

Wysong replaces Cynthia Saunders, who is retiring in June after five years in the role.

The board also voted on a provision for the new Superintendent's contract, which will not include a protection period where he cannot be fired after a new school board election.

Choate reasoned they should not be “hamstringing” future boards from what they can and cannot do.

Wysong accepted the position. His contract negotiations will begin immediately.

Nothing about my life has been typical. Before I fell in love with radio journalism, I enjoyed a long career in the arts in musical theatre.