School Board selects district's first African-American superintendent

School Board selects district's first African-American superintendent. (WPEC)

After three rounds of voting, the Palm Beach County school board voted Dr. Donald Fennoy as the new Superintendent to replace Robert Avossa, who resigned last month.

Fennoy might be a new leader but a familiar face for the district. He’s been with the school district for several years serving as Chief Operating Officer with his two own children in the school district.

It’s also a historic moment. Fennoy would be the district’s first African-American Superintendent.

He’s a man some considered a long shot since he wasn’t very well-known throughout the district but some insiders say he was a favorite because of his close friendship with current Superintendent Robert Avossa.

“So this was never on my radar,” Dr. Fennoy told the media at a news conference right after the vote was handed down.

From elementary school teacher to principal to Chief Operating Officer at the Palm Beach County School District and now what you might call Superintendent-Elect, Doctor Fennoy beat out two other insiders, including current Deputy Superintendent Dr. David Christiansen and Chief Academic Officer Keith Oswald.

The new roles come on the heels of Avossa’s surprise announcement last month that he intended to resign.

One reason Dr. Fennoy may have gotten enough votes is that he has two young kids in the district, including a child who goes to Wellington Elementary.

“As a parent whose child goes to a school here in Palm Beach County, this is a very personal work moving forward,” Dr. Fennoy said, especially in the wake of the Parkland massacre. CBS12 asked Dr. Fennoy about his plans for school safety.

“I think before Parkland, I think a lot of us were complacent,” he told us, adding that his current role working with security and facility teams gives him a leg up in this area.

We asked for more details of that plan and for security reasons, Dr. Fennoy wouldn’t get into it but would say, “You’re absolutely right. This is a difficult time.”

To some, the vote seemed hasty and had some scratching their heads why no nationwide search?

So we took that very question to School Board Chairman Chuck Shaw who told us, “We could make this decision and have a strong leader without having to go to the outside.”

He then went on to talk about another similarity between Avossa and Fennoy – their children.

“It was something Dr. Avossa dealt with,” Shaw said. “His children were in school and are in school in the county so he gets it. He understands what every parent goes through every single morning, all those challenges.”

Fennoy graduated from Florida A&M University in 1999 and began his career as a third-grade teacher in an Orange County public school, according to his application. After several years, he was promoted to Assistant Principal, then transferred to Charlotte, North Carolina to be a high school principal.

Fennoy then moved to Baltimore in 2010, where he leads the Maryland office of New Leaders for New Schools, according to his application. He also served as a Senior Area Superintendent for the Fulton County School System in Atlanta for four years before becoming Chief Operating Officer of the Palm Beach County School District in May 2016.

Fennoy’s contract still has to be negotiated and the salary range is between $250,000 to $300,000, similar to Avossa’s according to school officials.

If all goes according to plan, Fennoy will be sworn in a week from today.

Even though Avossa’s contract runs until the end of the year, we’re told it will end the same day the new Superintendent begins and that will be his last day on the payroll.

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