Manatee County superintendent to retire at end of contract
MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. (WWSB) — Manatee County School District Superintendent Cynthia Saunders announced Friday her intention to retire at the end of her contract.
Saunders served 34 years in public education in Florida, including the last five years as superintendent in Manatee County.
Her last day as superintendent will be Friday, June 30, 2023.
Saunders was reprimanded earlier this year for allegedly directing school district employees to incorrectly record student withdrawals from 2014 to 2016, which inflated the county’s high school graduation rate.
The irregularities happened before Saunders became superintendent, when she was executive director of secondary education. She was fined $2,000 and ordered to pass two 3-hour college courses in education ethics over the next two years. It was unclear from Manatee County’s statement whether Saunders would meet those conditions.
She was placed on two probationary periods, including submitting any performance evaluations she receives, paying administrative fees, and she cannot violate any district school board regulations.
She admitted no wrongdoing but agreed not to challenge the decision.
In a statement from the school district, Saunders expressed his appreciation for tenure.
“It has been the pinnacle of my career to serve as superintendent in Manatee County,” Ms Saunders said. “While we have weathered historic challenges – including a global pandemic, massive changes to school safety in the wake of the Parkland tragedy and, most recently, Hurricane Ian – working closely with members of our school board, we also recorded historic achievements. Our academic ranking among the 67 school districts in the state is at an all-time high, as is our school district’s fund balance. And, thanks to our parents and community partners, the citizens of Manatee County overwhelmingly approved the renewal of the additional mileage in November 2021, providing substantial support for our students and teachers.
The statement described her as a “change agent and innovator in education.” During her tenure as superintendent, she improved the D ranking and eliminated all “F” schools.
In 2016, the district’s academic ranking among Florida’s 67 school districts was 41st in the state based on total points earned on state accountability tests. At the end of her first year as superintendent (2018-2019), Manatee District ranked 28th in the state. After her fourth year as Superintendent (2021-2022), Manatee District ranked 25th – the highest ranking ever.
In December 2020, Ms. Saunders was named the 2020 STAR Superintendent of the Year by the Consortium of Florida Education Foundations for her support and dedication to the Manatee Education Foundation.
“I want to thank our school board members for their trust and support,” Saunders said. “Moving forward, I am committed to ensuring that we end this school year on a strong note, because that is what our students, parents and employees need and deserve. I will also work with the school board and the community in the search for a new superintendent to continue the strides we have made academically, financially and in terms of community support.
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