BRISTOL — Though Superintendent Ellen Solek has vehemently denied numerous times, including Sunday afternoon, that she is a candidate for the superintendent position in St. Johns County, Florida, her application, dated May 26, refutes that assertion.
“It is with great interest that I write to you regarding the vacant position of Superintendent of Schools for the School District of St. Johns County,” her application states.
“I am a passionate leader who possesses a strong belief system founded on honesty, integrity and the purposefulness in serving others,” her letter to the St. Johns school board continues. “I am proud of my long-standing reputation as an ethical leader who clearly understands that that fostering and maintaining renewing and rewarding relationships is at the core of who I am and what my mission is as an educational leader.”
When contacted Sunday, Solek again denied that she is a candidate for the position. Records from the St. Johns school district show that of the 21 applications received, she is one of nine being considered a finalist.
“It is what it is,” she said Sunday. “I am not a candidate for that position … All I will share with you is what I said to the school board, I am fully committed to Bristol public schools and Bristol public education.”
Emelia Hitchner, education reporter at The St. Augustine Record, said the ad for the job was posted, candidates were not sought out or recruited for the position.
“They put the ad online and whoever was interested actually applied. The applications were submitted,” she said. “She applied.”
Later, St. Johns County, Fla., released the resumes and applications for those who applied. Solek’s package, on her personal letterhead, was among them.
The school board will decide which finalists it will interview at its next meeting, Hitchner added.
“As an experienced school district leader, I work closely with the Board of Education and the town’s elected officials to successfully navigate through some very challenging economic conditions,” Solek said in her application.
“Genuine collaboration requires effective communication. I am a Superintendent who understands what it takes to clearly articulate information, to present a leadership vision in well-defined terms.”
Chris Wilson, president of the Bristol school board, said he was not totally surprised.
“We would view our superintendent looking for a job as a reflection of the quality of the staff and people in our district,” Wilson said.
“Superintendent jobs are very competitive. We expect this type of action to happen over time. We will deal with it. We have a strong supportive staff if she chooses to leave.”
Wilson said Solek has two years left on her three-year contract.
“If it came to it, we aren’t going to ask her to stay with us if she doesn’t want to stay here,” he said. “But until we’re told otherwise, she is our superintendent.”
Mayor Ken Cockayne said he and Solek work well together.
“She’s done an outstanding job as superintendent in Bristol and will be missed if she moves on,” he said. “She’s always been very accessible both not only for my office, but parents’ concerns.”
As for reasons she may be considering leaving Bristol, “that’s a good question,” said school board member Jeff Caggiano, deferring any further questions to board President Chris Wilson, who was not available Sunday.
Follow up Story Published August 22, 2016
BRISTOL — The city’s superintendent of schools, Ellen Solek, has rescinded her application for the top job in St. Johns County, Fla., school system.
While Michelle Dillon, president of the St. Johns Education Association, said Monday that Solek’s decision to pull the application could have happened as early as last week, neither she nor the 29 other members of the district’s search committee panel was notified until an email arrived Monday morning.
“It’s interesting that she pulled out and that she didn’t say anything like ‘I decided I want to stay with the great people of Bristol’ or anything,” Dillon said. “I don’t understand the denial.”
Solek, who repeatedly said she was never in contention for the job, was one of nine finalists, selected from 21 applicants from around the country, St. Johns County officials confirmed.
Solek finally confirmed Monday that she had applied for the position.
“I withdrew as a candidate August 9. It might not have been recorded until the next day or so, but I did withdraw,” she said. She chose not to elaborate on the reasons for her withdrawal.
“I’d rather not embellish on it,” she said. “I’m no longer a candidate.”
Solek applied for the job May 26. The finalists were announced by the school board and printed in the St. Augustine Record last week.
“On paper, it was a great application,” Dillon said. “Her résumé looks fan-tastic, and she was definitely one of the top contenders. I just don’t understand her reasoning.”
Bristol Board of Education President Chris Wilson said he doesn’t understand it either.
“I can’t even speculate,” he said Monday. “It doesn’t really concern me. People are always looking for better opportunities. If I were in her position, I would.”
As far as any official board position goes, Wilson said, members expect to move forward with plans for the coming academic year, with schools opening next week.
“It’s just status quo, working to get the schools open, make sure the buses run on time,” he said.