TAMPA, Fla. — We're one week away from the start of the school year, but the search has already begun for a new superintendent in Hillsborough County.

This comes after current superintendent Jeff Eakins announced he would be stepping down at the end of the 2019-2020 school year.

The Hillsborough County school board approved last week a $45,000 contract for Ray and Associates to help the district narrow its search for a new superintendent.

This group out of Iowa has led the superintendent search for other districts, like Marion County.

When it comes to what parents want to see out of the district’s next leader, specifics varied, but it came down to supporting teachers, listening to parents and making students had learning environments where they could succeed.

Plant High School PTSA President Michele Shapiro applauded Eakins for working to secure the half-cent sales tax for capital improvements and said the new superintendent must build on that success.

“Now’s the time to really focus on the curriculum, and also our greatest asset, which is our human capital: our teachers and our staff — really get them the resources they need to teach our students,” said Shapiro.

For Earlishia Oates, president of the PTA at Sheehy in East Tampa, the focus is on understanding the needs of a student population.

“[We need] someone who’s culturally competent. Someone who’s aware of the needs of all of the kids. He or she to understand that Hillsborough County is full of so many diverse kids who all need to be accounted for,” she said.

This new contract is the first step in the search process; board members discuss the search in more detail during a workshop on Aug. 15.

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