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By Robert Connors
Managing Editor 

Superintendent Finalists Met the Community Thursday

Presentations by Candidates a Highlight of Evening Reception

 

Last updated 2/22/2022 at 10:17pm

Photos by LaVaughn Williamson

The four finalists for Lake Wales Charter Schools superintendent include (L to R) Emilean Clemons, Andy Oguntola, Wayne Rodolfich, and Anuj Saran.

A well-attended reception Thursday evening offered the Lake Wales community its first opportunity to meet the four remaining candidates for superintendent of the Lake Wales Charter Schools system. More than 100 interested residents attended, taking the opportunity to become personally acquainted with the finalists.

The candidates, including Emilean Clemons, Andy Oguntola, Wayne V. Rodolfich, and Anuj Saran, were introduced one at a time, giving them an essentially private opportunity to make an impression before the next candidate was brought into the room. After their initial address each of the candidates was led to a prepared station, allowing guests to circulate and speak to them directly.

The 17-year-old, seven-school Lake Wales Charter School system has achieved years of remarkable success, dramatically raising graduation rates at Lake Wales High School. The process to find a superintendent to replace Jesse Jackson has taken a year.

LakeWalesNews.Net offered each of the four an opportunity to record a brief statement about the process, their general observations and impressions, and their comments are transcribed verbatim below.

Three of the candidates, including Clemons, Oguntola, and Saran, are residents of Polk County. Clemons is a graduate of Lake Wales schools and serves as principal of Bartow High School. Oguntola is the director of the Polk State College campus in Lake Wales, and the former chair of the Charter School Board of Trustees. Saran is an long-time employee of the Charter Schools, currently serving as assistant principal of Lake Wales High School. Rodolfich hails from Pascagoula, Mississippi, where he has served as a school superintendent for a number of years. He has family living in Lakeland.

Detailed applications and resumes of the four are viewable at the charter school website.

The event was held at the reception hall of the First AR Presbyterian Church on North Third Street, and followed a private dinner for the trustees and candidates sponsored by a number of area businesses and individuals.

The Board of Trustees will choose a new superintendent at their next meeting, February 22.

Comments offered by Dr. Wayne V. Rodolfich

"I think it's a very thorough process, and there was a lot of questions, and really challenging questions, your layered questions. It requires you to have a better perspective of what's expected in this community, and as I told the board, in a situation like this district is in, you have to provide the people who work in the district and the parents who live in the district, to be able to give you feedback about what the needs are, because as an outsider coming in, I really can't say "here's what we specifically need to target," but the people who live here, they know exactly what needs to be done, and my job is try to figure out how to get that done if I'm the person selected."

Comments offered by Andy Oguntola

"First of all I want to thank everybody in the City of Lake Wales for this process. It's been a phenomenal opportunity to meet all the different candidates, have a great conversation. I think that all four candidates are phenomenal. Most importantly...the first impression today that I think made you think, made you realize how great this community is, but at the same time showed that the board took great initiative with the school board association, to ask the most difficult questions possible. I'm afraid that I... my response was good enough for this community, but also to make a difference for the City of Lake Wales, I'm just grateful for the opportunity. grateful to hope to make our city better, and we'll just be here to support anybody who gets this position."

Comments offered by Emilean Clemons

"They made us feel very comfortable, we had some great opportunity to have good conversations individually as we just mingled. Our community tours were very, very well done, and it was a lot of fun because of course I know Lake Wales, and I had Mike Morrow, he was my community guide, tour guide, and of course his daughter graduated with my daughter, and his wife taught with me at McLaughlin, so it was nice, just kind of going back down memory lane. So we had a good time, but the questions... interviews are always stressful, but I believe the board did a really, really good job of trying to make us all comfortable."

Comments offered by Anuj Saran

"I think this is a very well-thought-out process, and of course when you walk into an interview you always feel a little bit intimidated, but I must say that walking into the room everyone put me at ease, the set-up was beautiful, the questions were very well thought out, and I thought all the trustees went out of the way to welcome me and make sure, just the way it was done, I really appreciated it. So the 90 minutes went pretty fast, and I think it was a wonderful experience."

 

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