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Florida District Fires National Superintendent of the Year Finalist

The Hillsborough County school board in Tampa, Fla., has fired Superintendent MaryEllen Elia, the leader of the nation's eighth-largest school district.

Under a motion approved by the board, her last day on the job will be March 15. The 4-3 vote followed three hours of public comment Tuesday by more than 70 speakers, many of them Elia supporters.

Hired as superintendent in 2005, Elia steadily rose through the ranks after beginning her career in the district as a reading specialist in the mid-1980s.

In December, the Florida Association of School District Administrators named Elia its Superintendent of the Year. This month, she became one of four finalists for the national award given by the AASA, the School Superintendents Association, and she traveled to Washington last week for a public forum and interview. The association will announce the winner during the conference next month in San Diego.

The Tampa Bay Times reports that:

"But, while widely considered one of the most effective school leaders of her generation, she has faced criticism in her own district and failed to win the trust and confidence of the full board."

Terminating the contract without cause will cost the district about $1.1 million, including 2 ½ years of her $280,000 annual salary and various other benefits. The board also had the option to fire Elia with cause or request her resignation.

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