OUR VIEW: Keith Oswald Should Not Be Named Sarasota Schools Superintendent

News Palm Beach County Schools Schools



keith oswald
Keith Oswald, courtesy Palm Beach County School District.

BOCA RATON, FL (BocaNewsNow.com) (EDITORIAL/OPINON) — If Palm Beach County School Superintendent Donald Fennoy has his way, his deputy — Keith Oswald — will be demoted to a “wellness” role before the 2020-2021 school year begins.

Fennoy made the announcement Friday. There is a link to the announcement below.

In the days before Fennoy’s announcement of the pending demotion, Oswald — who was previously passed over for the job Fennoy holds — was named a finalist for the Superintendent of Schools job in Sarasota County.

Our experience with Mr. Oswald has led us to send this message to the Sarasota School Board: you can do better.

It is no secret that like many of BocaNewsNow.com’s readers, I have children in the Palm Beach County School District. And it is no secret that having kids in a school district provides a front row seat to the successes and failures of administrative moves.

When administrators planned to assign an unqualified teacher into a South Palm Beach County elementary school classroom, I raised concern as a parent. Administrator after administrator sent the issue up the food chain, stating it was an issue for Keith Oswald.

His job description — before his demotion — makes it clear that Oswald is (or was) the go-to-guy for staffing issues that affect learning.

But Keith Oswald never responded. Not once. The Deputy Superintendent of Schools was apparently so disinterested in educational staffing at an elementary school in Boca Raton that he felt it unnecessary to respond to a parent. Even as others at his level — or close to it — said Oswald’s the person, Oswald apparently didn’t care.

Keith Oswald never responded. Not once. The Deputy Superintendent of Schools was apparently so disinterested in educational staffing at an elementary school in Boca Raton that he felt it unnecessary to respond to a parent.

Someone else, however, ultimately did.

Dr. Peter Licata, the school district’s regional superintendent. Licata responded to emails. Was cordial. And most importantly, caring. He brought to the conversation a level of intellect and engagement that perhaps only an experienced educator with an Ed.D could.

Peter Licata
[Dr. Peter Licata, South County Regional Superintendent. He is a finalist to become Superintendent of Schools for Sarasota County.]

Oswald does not hold an Ed.D or Ph.D. He is the Deputy Superintendent for the nation’s tenth largest school district and holds a master’s degree from FAU.

Licata solved the problem. Oswald remained nowhere to be found.

Coincidentally, or perhaps ironically, Peter Licata is also a candidate for the position of Superintendent of Sarasota County Schools. The Sarasota School Board says it wants a senior school district administrator with Florida experience who can hit the ground running.

We say Dr. Peter Licata is the right person for the job.

He clearly understands that parents are vital to a school system’s success and that ignoring them gets you nowhere. He was a teacher. A principal. And now, an administrator. We believe he has what it takes to lead Sarasota County Schools.

We don’t, however, know if Keith Oswald has what it takes or not. When you are a public employee with a big title and — in 2017 — a $160,000 taxpayer funded salary, one would think you’d be responsive to parents concerned over educational moves. He wasn’t. And apparently we’re not the only ones unimpressed.

While he wouldn’t speak with a parent, Keith Oswald’s demotion — from Deputy Superintendent to “chief of student services, wellness and equity” — speaks volumes.

We hope that the Sarasota County School Board is listening.


Link to school district announcement of Oswald reassignment.

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