The school district has 18 months to find its next superintendent.

Theresa Axford’s contract ends in July 2024, and school board members face a decision: National search, internal promotion or national search then internal promotion. Axford has not announced a formal retirement date, and does have the option to seek a contract renewal, or reapply for the superintendent job.

Four public speakers at the Jan. 24 school board meeting — some representing conservative political organizations — urged the board to conduct a national search for the next superintendent.

Christine Miller of Big Pine Key told the school board to hire a superintendent who “will bring prayer and God back to schools,” “post The 10 Commandments in every classroom,” “ban the LGBTQ agenda from all curricula” and still promote “the vision and values of our community.”

Marathon resident John Strickland simply told the board, “I want you to perform a national search for the superintendent.”

The topic wasn’t on the agenda for the school board’s meeting in Marathon, and the board did not discuss the superintendent succession plan.

Axford has been with the school district for nearly 35 years and was the longtime principal of Sugarloaf School, then Key West High School. She was the district’s executive director of teaching and learning until July 2020, when the board appointed her superintendent in a tumultuous time.

The pandemic was raging; the previous superintendent, Mark Porter, had decided not to renew his contract; and the district had just lost its longtime finance director. 

In other news…

  • The school district received a five-year, $8.9 million mental health grant that will fund nine additional social workers and provide at least one for every school, Erin WIlliams, the district’s coordinator of student support, told the board on Jan. 24. Currently, WIlliams said, some schools are sharing social workers, and the grant will place at least one in every school, and two or three in larger schools. It also will fund foreign language training for the social workers, as only one of the district’s six current social workers is bilingual. Emphasis will be placed on Spanish and Creole, Williams said, though board chair Andy Griffiths pointed out that more than 30 different languages are spoken at Key West’s Horace O’Bryant Middle School. Williams agreed, and added that 120 languages are spoken throughout the district.
Mandy Miles drops stuff, breaks things and falls down more than any adult should. An award-winning writer, reporter and columnist, she's been stringing words together in Key West since 1998. "Local news is crucial," she says. "It informs and connects a community. It prompts conversation. It gets people involved, holds people accountable. The Keys Weekly takes its responsibility seriously. Our owners are raising families in Key West & Marathon. Our writers live in the communities we cover - Key West, Marathon & the Upper Keys. We respect our readers. We question our leaders. We believe in the Florida Keys community. And we like to have a good time." Mandy's married to a saintly — and handy — fishing captain, and can't imagine living anywhere else.