Monroe County school board members on Jan. 30 will consider a one-year contract extension for Superintendent of Schools Theresa Axford. CONTRIBUTED

The Florida Keys’ top schools official, Superintendent Theresa Axford, would like to spend one more year on the job, and is asking the elected school board members to approve a one-year contract extension with no pay raise..

The board will consider the request at its Jan. 30 meeting in Marathon, where it meets at 5 p.m. 

Axford has been with the school district for about 35 years. She was the longtime principal of Sugarloaf School, then Key West High School. She then worked as the district’s executive director of teaching and learning until July 2020, when the board appointed her superintendent in a tumultuous time. Her annual salary is $175,000, which would remain the same for her final year, according to her extension request.

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

“My current contract finishes on July 31, 2024,” Axford told the Keys Weekly on Jan. 23. “My contract request reflects an extension of one year to allow me to spend one full budget cycle with our new executive director of finance who began work in January and to continue my work to improve working conditions for teachers and staff with salary increases and affordable housing. I am also very committed to seeing increases in student performance, which will be reflected after progress monitoring is complete in June. I am not requesting a salary increase.”

Axford added that a school district year-in-review sort of progress report will be presented at the Jan. 30 meeting in Marathon.

Whether or not they extend Axford’s contract, the board soon will have a decision to make for the long-term superintendent question: National search, internal promotion or national search and then an internal promotion. 

A year ago, at a January 2023 school board meeting, four public speakers — some representing the conservative political organization Moms for Liberty — 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.”

If Axford’s one-year extension passes at the Jan. meeting, the long-term decision will remain.

Mandy Miles
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.