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Update: School board cuts superintendent slate to three; one candidate withdraws

Interviews with finalists set for Monday

By MEGHAN BRADBURY - | Jan 26, 2022

From left, finalists Christopher Bernier, Randy Mahlerwein and Michael Ramirez.


Applicant Randy Mahlerwein has decided not to participate in the interviews so only Christopher Bernier and Michael Ramirez will be interviewed and considered today, Monday, Jan. 31.

Original post:

The School Board of Lee County has winnowed its list of superintendent candidates down to three with interviews, and a public meet-and-greet, to come next week.

The board will hold a workshop at 2:30 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 31, follow up with briefing meeting at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 1 and then hold a voting meeting at 12:30 p.m. at which the board could name the candidate they wish to tap as the next superintendent.

There also will be a community reception for the finalists from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Monday in the atrium at the Lee County Public Education Center.

The board ranked all five superintendent semi-finalists during a Monday workshop, which put candidate Christopher Bernier on top with a total of 22 points. Randy Mahlerwein received 14 points, Michael Ramirez received 13 points, Charles “Jeff” Perry received 11 points and Michael Gaal received 10 points.

“My top three are the top three,” Board member Mary Fischer said. “I looked for integrity, expectations, experience, yes, but experience in team building, listening and learning and then acting . . . trust and relationship building, who would engage stakeholders and focus on students.”

Accountability, integrity and team were important for Board member Melisa Giovannelli.

“We have not been a team and I want to be a team with the district staff, board. I want to be that team. I looked at one candidate, if you can fly an airplane that is a four passenger, you can fly a large jet. You have the skillset that is there, you just need to pull it out when needed. A strong leader is really going to be important and be a team player instead of being on an island alone,” she said.

Board member Cathleen O’Daniel Morgan said she generally felt that the candiate responses to the questions were fairly similar and they provided some great ideas.

“I asked myself what do we really need in a superintendent,” she said Monday.

One of those areas is the strategic plan.

“We haven’t had real accountability and haven’t had accountability across the district in terms of leadership,” Morgan said. “I was looking for someone to hire a great team and manage a great team and really engage the community by diverse group.”

Bernier is currently the chief of staff for Clark County School District in Las Vegas, Nevada. He took on the position in 2019, leading the nation’s fifth largest school district with 310,000 students. Bernier was the associate superintendent of Orange County Public Schools from 1987 to 2019, an Orlando school district that served more than 206,000 students at 202 schools.

Other jobs included a senior director of professional development, a high school principal, middle school principal, assistant principal, dean of students, athletic director, U.S. history teacher and interscholastic coach.

Bernier earned his U.S. history bachelors of arts degree with minors in education and psychology from Lemoyne College. He also earned his masters of science in educational leadership from Nova Southeastern University and his doctorate of education in educational leadership from the University of Central Florida.

Mahlerwein has a doctorate in educational leadership K-12, as well as two master’s degrees in education, educational leadership and curriculum and instruction from Northern Arizona University, as well as a bachelor of science in elementary education from Miami University.

Currently, he is the assistant superintendent of secondary 7-12 grade at Mesa Public Schools, a position he began in 2020 that oversees 30,000 secondary students. Prior he was an assistant superintendent, again with Mesa Public Schools from 2019-2020.

Other positions include an assistant superintendent of secondary education, director of secondary programs and a principal for the Higley Unified School District. Mahlerwein also held such positions an assistant principal, Olweus bully prevention coordinator, dean of students, adjunct faculty, math, English and social studies teacher.

Ramirez became the deputy superintendent of schools for Denver Public Schools in 2019 in a district that serves 90,000 students. Prior to that he was the cadre director for the office of school performance and accountability for Broward County Public Schools.

Other positions include a principal, assistant principal, social studies teacher, behavior specialist and an adjunct professor.

Ramierz has a bachelor of arts in secondary education from Southeastern College and a master of science in educational leadership from Nova Southeastern University.