The St. Johns County School Board has voted unanimously to name retired Deputy Superintendent for Operations Tim Forson as the next school superinentendent, succeeding Dr. Joseph Joyner on Jan. 4, 2017.
The school board had narrowed the search to Forson and Orange County Public Schools administrator Dr. Vickie Cartwright before ultimately selecting Forson, who had worked in the St. Johns County schools for three decades.
“This proved a difficult decision, as I felt as though we were in a win-win situation choosing between Dr. Vickie Cartwright and Mr. Forson,” School Board Chair Patrick Canan said. “In the end, Mr. Forson has the familiarity and trust of the community coupled with the confidence from the board, which made him the perfect choice to continue the excellence under Dr. Joyner’s leadership.”
Joyner, who is retiring after 14 years at the helm of Florida’s top-rated public school district, echoed those sentiments.
“Tim is a superior leader and an even better person,” Joyner said. “His integrity and character have made him one of my most trusted advisors. His commitment to this district gives me great pride and I am honored to have worked with him for almost 14 years.”
Prior to the school board’s decision, St. Johns County residents gathered Nov. 1 to hear Forson and Cartwright discuss why they were best suited to lead the school district in addressing challenging issues like growth.
Canan opened the public reception at First Coast Technical College in St. Augustine by introducing both candidates and asking them a group of questions. Each candidate separately completed this interview process in front of the more than 50 residents in attendance and then met with some of the residents afterwards.
“It was a great opportunity for us to see both of the candidates,” said Tina Waldrop, a St. Augustine resident. “Both have great insight into our school district.”
Forson recently retired after serving as deputy superintendent of operations for the St. Johns County School district since 2011. Prior to that role, he served in the school district for 26 years as a teacher, coach, assistant principal and principal before serving four years as executive director for facilities and operations.
In 2005, Forson was named St. Johns County’s Principal of the Year and went on to become a state finalist for that honor.
“What I do know is St. Johns County, and I know it well,” said Forson. “I would not have applied if I didn’t truly believe that I could make it happen and do it to the best of my ability and continue the school district on the path that it’s on.”
Cartwright is currently senior executive director for exceptional student education for the Orange County Public Schools. She previously served in a number of educational and administrative roles in that district, as well as in school districts in Mississippi and Texas.
The candidates agreed that growth is the school district’s most pressing issue, with Cartwright calling it a “wonderful problem to have.”
“Families have that much trust in the school district that they want to come here,” she said. “They value the education so much that they seek out St. Johns County. It’s an exciting dilemma.”
Both candidates said a thorough review of funding and revenue sources is necessary in order to face the issue appropriately. Forson said the district has to consistently engage state funding sources for those schools with high growth.
St. Johns resident Jim Wheeler said he doesn’t know if either candidate had all of the answers concerning growth, but he was confident in Forson’s experience in the district.
“I think Mr. Forson has an advantage because he has seen the growth over the last 10 years,” said Wheeler.
Waldrop said she felt the same way.
“I think Tim has a great handle on that growth,” said Waldrop. “He knows the school district, he knows the town and he has a good handle on how to process that.”