By Jason Lamb
1:42 PM AKST, December 16, 2011
An Anchorage Schools Superintendent candidate is answering questions about his past, after professors at his former workplace questioned his ability to lead.
After spending seven years in charge of the Lee County School District in Florida, Jim Browder spent about half a year in a top administrator position at Edison College, also in Florida.
Reports from the NBC affiliate in Ft. Myers say he was quickly promoted by his longtime friend and president of the college to the number two position on campus earning a quarter of a million dollars a year.
The faculty senate at Edison quickly questioned his qualifications, asking that Browder be reassigned and removed from any responsibilities related to education.
"There was a small group -- a couple administrators and professors -- who didn't like me, and didn't want me there to have any authority over instruction, so I chose to leave," Browder said in a phone interview with Channel 2 News on Friday.
Soon after, the president of the college also left.
"I was just a step along the way for the group that chose to go at the president," Browder said.
Browder points to his seven years experience as superintendent of the Lee County School District in Florida. He says he was able to boost school performance while facing big budget cuts in a relatively poor district.
"Those are the things I would want you to look at," said Browder, "say, you know, this guy only spent six months at his next job and it just didn't work out."
"We know he got into some difficult situations at Edison college," said Anchorage School Board president Gretchen Guess. "All of us who know higher education know how that can happen."
Guess says Browder has been open with the district about his past, and she says the board is not as concerned with his time at Edison college.
"If we were hiring him for a college position, that would be one thing, but we really focused on his ability to have such dramatic student achievement gains with a cutting budget in Lee county," Guess said.
Guess says Steve Atwater -- the other finalist -- has had some concerns raised about him too, like his relative inexperience as superintendent of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Schools -- only two and a half years.
"That's kind of expected, if you're in a leadership role in a community, you're going to do something to upset someone," Guess said.
When Browder and Atwater arrive in Anchorage, their interviews will involve visits to classrooms, with city leaders and even appearances on talk radio.
Early next year, the public will have a chance to ask the superintendent candidates questions. Each of the candidates will take part in a two-hour community forum at the ASD Education center from 7-9 p.m. Jim Browder's forum will be on January 6, and Steve Atwater's will take place on January 13.
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