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Florida Superintendent Vacancy Draws High-Profile Candidates

More than 70 people have applied to be the next superintendent of the Palm Beach County, Fla., schools, including a former state schools superintendent and a recent finalist for National Superintendent of the Year.

Valeria Silva of St. Paul, Minn., Bernard Taylor Jr. of East Baton Rouge, La., and Robert Avossa, of Fulton County, Ga., are among the sitting superintendents who applied for the job to replace outgoing Superintendent Wayne Gent as leader of the country's 11th-largest school district.

The 180,000-student school system has had three superintendents in the past five years, and board members hope the next school chief will usher in an era of stability and sustained leadership.

Former Hillsborough County, Fla., school superintendent MaryEllen Elia and former Georgia state schools superintendent John Barge are among the other prominent applicants seeking the job.

The Hillsborough County school board fired Elia in January, weeks after AASA, the School Superintendents Association, named her a finalist for Superintendent of the Year. Barge wrapped up his tenure as state schools chief in January after making a failed bid to unseat Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal in the last election.

The Palm Beach County opening also attracted three internal candidates, including the district's chief operation officer.

School board members are scheduled to select finalists this week, conduct interviews next week, and select a new school leader by the end of the month. The national search is being led by Iowa-based search firm Ray and Associates.

"We are pleased Palm Beach County attracted such a large pool of qualified candidates with diverse backgrounds," Gary Ray, chief executive officer of Ray and Associates, said in a statement.

The Palm Beach Post reports that the school board agreed on a salary range for the position of $275,000 to $350,000; Gent's base salary is $236,000.

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