The School Board and Diane Gullett, Clark County School District’s deputy superintendent in Nevada, are in contract negotiations.

Diane Gullett bleeds orange and blue. Gullett, 53, a 1988 graduate of the University of Florida, smiled when she spoke about her love of the Gators, boating, the beach and gardening.


Gullett, who has worked as an area superintendent and a deputy superintendent at two of the nation’s largest school districts, is the School Board’s choice for Marion County’s next superintendent of schools.


Gullett was chosen after a national search that led the Florida girl back home. The School Board and Gullett are negotiating a contract that will determine when that new era will begin in Marion County.


Marion County’s target salary is $210,000. Gullet’s current annual salary is about $160,000. Gullett was interviewed Monday at the Bice Cole Law Firm, the office of acting School Board attorney Suzanne Green.


After spending last weekend looking at homes in Marion County in preparation for her move, she met with the Star-Banner and each School Board member individually on Monday.


"I am really anxious to get here," she noted from her seat at the end of a long conference table. "Of course these are very unusual times. Not being able to get on the ground to met face to face with everyone is a challenge."


Gullett is currently the deputy superintendent for Clark County School District, Las Vegas, the nation’s second largest district that has more than 320,000 students.


She hopes the threat of COVID-19 eases so that she can get out more to meet employees. Gullett has been ushering in distant learning protocols in Clark County for weeks.


"I can’t wait to get out to the schools and get to know the community," she said.


Before her two-year stint in Las Vegas, Gullett was an area superintendent for Orange County Public Schools, the nation’s eighth largest school district that covers Orlando.


The area she covered in Orange County had nearly as many schools, and students, as all of Marion County. She earned master’s and doctorate degrees in education leadership from the University of Central Florida.


Gullett was raised in Florida, attended high school in Clay County and spent two decades working in the Orlando area. Her husband, Rick, is a division manager for TECO Peoples Gas in Marion County.


Gullett will replace Superintendent of Schools Heidi Maier, who was elected in 2016 to a term that ends in November. Early last year, Maier had said she would be willing to leave sooner if certain conditions were met. Last spring, Maier said she planned to stay until November 2020.


Marion voters decided in 2018 to no longer elect its school superintendent. Instead, the School Board now appoints the county’s top K-12 leader. When asked recently if she was still planning to stay until November, Maier said would only say that November is when her term expires.


"This is a big change for the community; the fact voters choose to go to an appointed superintendent," Gullett said. "I am very transparent, very approachable, very genuine and very committed."


Gullett said once she "can get to work, we can begin to see how things (from COVID-19 challenges to administrative structure) transform."


"My focus is education," she said. "Supporting schools and supporting education are priorities. They will soon recognize that I lead by a team approach."


Gullett noted she will have to be flexible and prepared to be on the sidelines, so to speak, until November when Maier’s term ends. Gullett will be hired under the title of School Board auditor general.


"A lot of things are going on in my head, especially with distance learning and how we meet the challenges ahead," she noted. "We must make sure every child has what they need. The employees must have what they need to support. And training, we must have training."


She said will be to quickly build trust throughout the district.


"I think when you go into an organization you must be able to have an objective viewpoint to see what’s working," she noted. "You need to recognize and elevate that."


Gullett said she does not anticipate making changes too fast, only "some strategic shifts."


"It is important to come in and see who is doing what role," said Gullet, adding that she enjoys frequent visits to schools. "It’s not about me. It’s about supporting Marion County."


Gullett has worked in two large School Districts for superintendents who were appointed. Gullett was asked about how an appointed superintendent can balance pleasing board members for job security and also doing what is best for students.


"I believe you do what is best for students," Gullett noted. "You must be transparent when you do it and, most importantly, you must communicate with the board. You have to have a good relationship with the board. I will have five bosses."


Gullett has three adult children, ages 24, 26 and 28. She loves the beach and skiing, both snow and water. The family loves boating and has missed Florida during her two years in Clark County.


"It will be good to come back home," she said.


Joe Callahan can be reached at 867-4113 or at joe.callahan@starbanner.com. Follow him on Twitter @JoeOcalaNews.