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Ex-Superintendent Williams applies to lead Florida district

Ten months after leaving Buffalo, James A. Williams has applied to become the superintendent in Duval County, Fla., a district that includes Jacksonville.

According to the Florida Times-Union, the district is looking for: "A listening, leading communicator who creates a culture of shared decision-making; someone who empowers teachers and staff; a proactive visionary who thinks past his/her tenure; strong organizational leadership skills; and someone who's trustworthy."

When he left Buffalo, Williams, who is now 68, said in interviews that he planned to pursue a position in higher education and possibly write a book – but he said he would not seek another superintendent position.

"James Williams is a household name all over the country. I've received hundreds of calls. I'm very well respected," he said in August 2011, after he submitted his resignation. "I'm leaving with dignity. I'm leaving with happiness – with a resume that would stand up against anyone who's sat in this seat in the history of Buffalo."

Duval County asked each applicant to write up to 300 words in response to each of five statements regarding leadership. In his responses, Williams described himself as a leader with a record of bringing people to work together, developing trust, communicating openly and achieving quantifiable results. He said he created structures for shared decision-making.

"Embarking on the journey of shared decision-making within a district starts with a foundation of trust," he wrote, describing how group-training sessions can be used to establish trust and common goals. "Hidden agendas and manipulating behaviors are reduced, thereby building a culture of team-building rather than multiple individual agendas."

Williams wrote that as a district leader, he was "able to realize the benefits of honest and open communication."

Williams did not indicate specif-
ically in one response which of his previous positions he was referring to, but he said that under his leadership, collective-bargaining agreements were settled, test scores and graduation rates increased, student suspensions decreased and job satisfaction improved.

He underscored what he described as his ability to improve communication and trust.

"A person of integrity who is trustworthy and whose relationships are predicated on honest and open communications is committed to transparency and acting with fidelity," he wrote. "These qualities lead to creating a culture of trust and empowering all members of the district community to provide all students with challenging, high-quality instruction delivered by effective teachers."

Williams is one of 30 applicants interested in leading the 125,000-
student district; the job pays $275,000 a year. The district this week posted several of the applications online. Florida law requires all the full applications be posted.

Williams' last day as Buffalo's superintendent was in mid-September 2011. He resigned after the School Board took preliminary steps to pursue his termination.

The board paid Williams $110,000 – six months' salary – under his separation agreement, plus $8,000 in unused vacation time and $10,000 as a sort of retainer to be accessible by phone for any questions that arose.

Also, under the terms of his contract, the Buffalo Public Schools will cover 70 percent of his health insurance premiums for the rest of his life.

He did not respond to a request to comment for this story.