Escambia Schools Name Keith Leonard As Interim Superintendent

May 31, 2023

The Escambia County School Board voted unanimously in an emergency meeting Tuesday afternoon to appoint Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Keith Leonard as interim superintendent.

Tim Smith’s contract as superintendent ends Wednesday after the board voted earlier this month to terminate him.

Leonard will serve as interim superintendent until June 30, 2024, unless that board terminates his contract earlier. The exact details of the contract are still being finalized; it will go before the board for approval in June.

Leonard told the board he is ready to get to work.

“We are going to give our students the best opportunity we can, and we are going to treat and support our employees every day like they are doing God’s work. You can rest assured of that,” he said. “We have a lot of work to do; we have a very diverse community, and all of their points are important and need to be listened to…Making certain that our students have the opportunity to be successful in life.”

“We are going to work on the foundation of the Escambia County School District. You can count on it now; you can count on it tomorrow,” Leonard said. “Thank you for the opportunity, and you’ll be proud of the work we do in the Escambia County School District.”

Leonard was a finalist for the appointed superintendent position that ultimately went to Smith. Multiple members of the public spoke in his favor Tuesday, while others voice support for Deputy Superintendent Sheena Payne and displeasure that she was seemingly passed over the job.

After a couple of hours of public comment at Tuesday’s meeting, Payne spoke to the board on her own behalf.

“We’ve got work to do. I can serve,” Payne said.  “I’ll serve under Mr. Leonard. I’ll serve under whoever you put there.”

“God is holding us accountable for what we do from this day forward,” Payne said. She ended on a standing ovation by saying that the district must do things “on one accord”. She will remain in the deputy superintendent position.


12 Responses to “Escambia Schools Name Keith Leonard As Interim Superintendent”

  1. Time marches on on June 2nd, 2023 7:11 pm

    I wish Mr. Leonard the very best in leading the school district — those kids are the future.

    I just hope that he stays away from Malcom Thomas’s backdoor plan to re-insert himself into the district.

  2. Teacher's Husband... on June 2nd, 2023 12:55 pm

    As the husband of a 30 year teaching veteran, who’s wife would come home in tears frustrated at all the carp they were required to do which had NOTHING to do with actually teaching…I hope these leaders will let the TEACHERS get back to the basics of TEACHING, and not making KPI’s and charts and graphs for the principals to present to some administrator somewhere…

  3. Silent Observer on June 2nd, 2023 9:26 am

    Mrs Payne – what great wisdom and insight you have. You have a heart of gold.
    You and Mr. Leonard will be a great team. May all the school board members, teachers, administrators AND Parents – get on the train to transform our schools into centers of excellence. May our students develop the social, emotional and academic skills needed to live happy and fulfilled lives.
    I commit to praying for you as leaders.

  4. Emjay on May 31st, 2023 11:47 am

    I thoroughly believe Ms. Payne is more than qualified to serve in any capacity she chooses and she would perform with the utmost grace and positive attitude I have known her to exhibit throughout her years as West Florida High’s principal until now. Ms. Payne, thank you for exhibiting every ounce of respectability without falling prey to negativity. Others may want to say she was passed over for X, Y, or Z outward attributes, but I’m glad she doesn’t fall into that same trap. All I see is a more-than-competent qualified individual who is a truly valuable contribution to our school district’s administration, in whatever capacity, and those around her should be immensely grateful. Good luck to Mr. Leonard.

  5. Jlb on May 31st, 2023 10:55 am

    Good luck to Mr. Leonard an Ms. Payne…they have alot of work before them.

  6. Heavenbound on May 31st, 2023 10:36 am

    Sheena Payne thank you for your words about serving. Most people don’t get it, they want to be in charge and if not they pitch a fit. You are a true servant of God and the people. Thank you again.

  7. Dawn Sims on May 31st, 2023 10:15 am

    Congratulations Mr. Leonard! I can’t think of anyone I’d rather work for!

  8. Beach Boy on May 31st, 2023 9:54 am

    Congratulations Keith!! You’re exactly the kind of person we need to oversee our board members, teachers and students for such a time as this! Thank you.

  9. Spud on May 31st, 2023 9:51 am

    Shenna Payne should have been selected. But this is the good ole boy system.

  10. Tommy Paine on May 31st, 2023 8:47 am

    Let’s hope Coach Leonard can do right by the teachers and students without getting harangued by the “anti-woke,” book banning know-nothings.

  11. Demographically Challenged on May 31st, 2023 7:48 am

    Good pick….

  12. Denise on May 31st, 2023 6:40 am

    Congratulations Keith!