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Keys schools chief Porter starts job-hunting with St. Johns County application

Monroe County School District Superintendent Mark Porter, who has one year remaining on his contract and hasn’t had a raise since he was hired in 2012, plans to apply to run the public schools in St. Johns County.

Porter, who makes about $150,000 a year, announced his plan to “keep my options open with regard to other opportunities” in his weekly email to board members Friday evening sent from Minnesota, where he was about to leave on a canoe trip.

In an email response to his colleagues Saturday, School Board member Ed Davidson said Porter would be “abandoning his responsibilities to Monroe County more than six months early, and over the Christmas holidays in the middle of the school year” if he gets the St. Johns job, which is in North Florida near St. Augustine.

Davidson told the other board members not to write back to him to avoid any allegations of violating the state’s public records law but others said they weren’t surprised or worried about possibly losing the superintendent.

“Unfortunately, that’s the way it is with superintendents, they move around,” said John Dick, the board’s vice chairman. “I’d be happy if he stayed. He’s got to do what he thinks is best for him and his family.”

In 2012, Dick was the lone dissenter in the board’s 4-1 vote to hire Porter, who became the first board-hired superintendent in the Keys after the Acevedo embezzlement scandal; previously the superintendent was elected.

Randy Acevedo was the superintendent. His then-wife Monique directed district adult education. She is on the back end of an eight-year prison stint for stealing more than $400,000 from the district. Randy had been removed from office by then-Gov. Charlie Crist following his indictment in 2009 on three counts of official misconduct, for which he was convicted, fined and received probation.

Porter didn’t return a voicemail message Monday and neither did St. Johns human resources directors but his message says he “will be submitting” an application for the St. Johns superintendent job.

The original three-year contract Monroe County schools signed with Porter requires him to tell board members when applying or interviewing for a new job. It also requires a minimum 90-day notice period.

St. Johns County, which has a $310 million operating budget and has ranked as Florida’s No. 1 school district academically for seven straight years, is a growing district with about 36,000 students and 4,000 employees. It’s accepting applications for superintendent until midnight July 15.

St. Johns is offering, at minimum, a three-year contract with a salary range of $165,000 to $195,000 annually plus benefits and wants the new superintendent to start work in January 2017.

In his Friday email, this was no. 7 of the eight topics Porter typed out before, as he put it, “leaving civilization” for the trip on Sunday:

“Personal/Confidential: In light of the fact that I have entered the final year of my current contract with the school board, I feel it is necessary and appropriate for me to keep my options open with regard to other opportunities.”

Porter continued, “In this regard after several conversations with the search facilitators I will be submitting an exploratory application to the St. Johns County Schools for the position of Superintendent of Schools.”

Porter, who is also a lawyer, and his wife Jane moved to the Florida Keys from Minnesota, where he had lost the superintendent’s job after three years and 32 years in the South Washington County Schools.

Keys public schools won’t suffer were Porter to leave, School Board member Bobby Highsmith said Monday.

“If he were to leave us, I’d certainly be disappointed,” said Highsmith, who was elected after Porter’s hiring. “But I’m sure we’ll find another great candidate. By and large, he’s done a very good job.”

Gwen Filosa: @KeyWestGwen on Twitter

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