Candidates for Putnam County superintendent of schools

The following candidates returned the News4Jax.com candidate survey.

Phyllis Criswell


Age: 61

Candidate's family: Two grown daughters, graduates of Palatka High School and the University of Central Florida.

Occupation: Putnam County Superintendent of Schools

Education: Bachelors degree in Education from University of Florida, 3 Masters degrees-Elementary Education, School Counseling, Educational Leadership from University of North Florida

Political experience: Four years as Superintendent of Putnam County Schools. I am not a politician, I am an educator!

What do you see as the top three issues in this race?

  • Student achievement - A constant struggle in Putnam County where 78-80% of students live at or below the poverty level.
  • School grades-A reflection of student test scores.
  • Parent Dissatisfaction with State Testing-stressful to students, parents and teachers; test is not valid.

  • How can you help voters in a way that others running for this office cannot?
    I have lived in Putnam County all of my life. I am a graduate of a Putnam County high school, both of my children graduated in the top 10 of their graduating classes in Putnam County. I am active in many Putnam County community service organizations. I have worked for Putnam County School District for 31 years. I have been a teacher, guidance counselor, assistant principal, principal, director of student services, and assistant superintendent. I have the knowledge and experience to continue to move the school district forward. I have proven leadership skills. I have made major positive changes in the school district that have never been accomplished before (see question 11). I am committed to moving the Putnam County School District forward and making a positive difference in the lives of our children and the community as a whole. Change
    doesn't happen quickly. Four years is not enough time to make all the necessary improvements necessary to see significant progress. Voters will need to allow me the opportunity to serve another term.

    What would you hope to be remembered for accomplishing after serving in this office?
    Established the first ever Cambridge Advanced Studies magnet school for K-12 students in 2013-14. Prior to this Putnam County School District has never offered a Cambridge or IB program for students.
    Established, the first ever in Putnam County, 6th Grade Center (C.L. Overturf, Jr. 6th Grade Center). Five of our 9 elementary schools' fifth graders enter this 6th grade center, which has allowed us to focus more strategically on the needs of these students, academic, test taking skills and social skills, to better prepare them for the demands of rigorous instruction in 7th and 8th grade. It has been very successful. In 2020, we hope to see this first group of students to attend the 6th grade Center have more graduates in their class, therefore improving our graduation rate for years to come. Establishing, a first ever, partnership with St. Johns County School District, and their First Coast Technical School, to provide more and varied career and technical course opportunities for our high school students, and our community. Adding a 6th grade class, that is either Honors or Cambridge, to K-5 elementary schools in Interlachen, Melrose and Crescent City. Again, a first for Putnam County schools. Re-establishing a highly successful Musical Theater program in Palatka/Putnam County schools, after a 4 year absence. Hired a lobbyist to promote Putnam County school needs and pursue money for Putnam County School District, the poorest county in the state, to better meet the needs of our students. A lobbyist working for Putnam County School District is a major first for Putnam County Schools. In three years the lobbyist has managed to get our requests to the "Governor's List," and we survived the cuts. Our lobbyist has successfully obtained $3.1 million dollars of additional funding in 3 years of working for the Putnam County School District, and will continue to work with us to secure additional funding needed in the coming years to help the children of Putnam County.

    Campaign Website: none

    Facebook and/or Twitter pages: Facebook.com/reelectphylliscriswell

    Rick Surrency


    Age: 59

    Candidate's family: Wife-Penny Surrency, six children and eight grandchildren

    Occupation: Retired Principal

    Education: Bachelor's Degree in Education from University of Florida, Master's degree in Adninistration and Supervision from Nova Southeastern University, Doctorate in Educational Leadership from Nova Southeastern University

    Political experience: none

    What do you see as the top three issues in this race?

  • Low test scores
  • Low graduation rate
  • The District's role in our local economy

  • How can you help voters in a way that others running for this office cannot?
    I have 22 years of experience as a School Administrator and in working with the people of Putnam county. I have a reputation of being an administrator that truly listens to students, parents, educators, and community members. I work collaboratively with all stakeholders to find answers that are best for all involved.

    What would you hope to be remembered for accomplishing after serving in this office?
    Helping to move our district to the upper one half of school districts in terms of student achievement. Being a servant leader.

    Campaign Website: RickSurrency.com

    Facebook and/or Twitter pages: Rick Surrency for Superintendent