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Fired Florida School Chief Still a Finalist for National Superintendent of the Year

Ousted Hillsborough County, Fla., schools Superintendent MaryEllen Elia is still a finalist for the National Superintendent of the Year honor awarded by the AASA, the School Superintendents Association, officials there said.

"The superintendent's job is one of the most difficult and demanding jobs in America. That's one of the reasons why AASA was disappointed to learn ... that MaryEllen Elia, one of the finalists for the 2015 National Superintendent of the Year, is being terminated, without cause," AASA Executive Director Daniel Domenech said in a statement.

AASA will announce the recipient of its annual top honor during its national conference in late February in San DiegoElia will still be employed as a superintendent when the award is handed out. Her last day on the job is March 15.

"Supt. Elia and the other three candidates chances of being awarded Supt. of the Year will be based on their respective merits as a superintendent," said AASA spokesman James Minichello.

The other finalists for the honor are Philip Lanoue, superintendent of the Clarke County district in Athens, Ga.; Patrick Murphy, who was selected for his leadership of the Arlington, Va., school system; and Patrice Pujol, the superintendent of the Ascension Public Schools in Donaldsonville, La.

"Once again, we congratulate MaryEllen for being named a finalist for the 2015 National Superintendent of the Year ... It's a difficult job to choose the eventual honoree," Domenech said.

The school board fired Elia Tuesday on a 4-3 vote. Elia has led the school system, the nation's eighth-largest, since July 2005. Terminating her contract without cause will cost the district about $1.1 million.

"We wish MaryEllen well in her career," Domenech said. "Most of all, at this particular time, we wish the students of Hillsborough County Schools the best as the district begins its search for a new superintendent."

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