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Orange County superintendent candidates speak from the heart, and experience, during final interviews

Photo: Maria Vazquez
Photo: Maria Vazquez

The Orange County School Board interviewed the last two candidates for the district’s open superintendent position for more than four hours Tuesday. 

Each board member got ten minutes to ask the candidates questions about a variety of educational leadership topics, from school safety to student well being. 

Deputy Superintendent for Orange County Maria Vazquez and Regional Palm Beach County Superintendent Peter Licata are both still in the running. 

Vazquez says along with her experience as a leader in the district, she wants the job because she knows the power of a good education in changing lives as the child of two Cuban immigrants.

“They instilled in me that education was the most valuable currency I had and I couldn't squander it. I am living proof of what a quality education can do to transform lives. Because there were caring adults in school that believed in me and supported me. I was able to succeed. I want that for every child.”

Licata says he is inspired to lead the district by both his father, who was a beloved teacher in South Florida, and his grandkids, who are currently in Florida schools. 

“And I'm not sure there's a better moment in my life when I walk into the cafeteria and the whole first grade and kindergarten says, 'Leo, Poppy's here,' and the whole place erupts. To sit and to have lunch with a grandchild in a school that you know, is a place of learning where teachers are teaching, where administrators are letting teachers teach, where parents are bringing their very best. It's it's a great feeling.”

The board will choose the next superintendent at their June 28th meeting. Jenkins is expected to retire by late December.

Danielle Prieur covers education in Central Florida.