Manatee Superintendent Announces Departure Plans
Manatee County Superintendent of Schools Rick Mills announced he will retire at the end of July. The decision comes amid a rocky relationship with the School Board through most of his time in charge of the district, and after an election brought the ouster of a School Board chairman who was there when he was hired.
During an interview for an article appearing in the May issue of SRQ, Mills acknowledged his relationship with the board had been strained. He announced earlier this year he did not want his contract extended, though at the time he remained optimistic about whether he would stay with the district. His contract was set to expire in 2017. A press release from the school district notes that since his hire in March 2013, Mills oversaw a "total financial transformation" of the district, coming in to a district with an $8.9 million budget deficit and now operating with a $14.4 million surplus.
But his practices were also controversial. Heavy turnover in district staffing was a criticism leveled during the political season, when School Board Member Julie Aranibar was defeated by Mary Cantrell. In recent weeks, Mills has sparred over citizen complaints made to the School Board. He also was pushing for the district to consider alternative sources of revenue to fund the district, which could require putting a tax to voters to weigh in on in an upcoming election.
During the interview with SRQ, Mills said regardless of the future, he was pleased with district operations under his watch. "I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished," he said, "but I want to keep us on that path.”