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Superintendent’s new boss: ‘He was going to leave anyway’

Even if Palm Beach County schools Superintendent Robert Avossa hadn’t accepted a job as senior vice president at LRP Publications, the well-regarded educator would have moved on, his new boss said.

“Robert is so good that he was being recruited by some even bigger districts and some states to be state superintendent,” LRP owner Ken Kahn said Friday in an interview. “Frankly, I think he was going to leave anyway.”

Palm Beach Gardens-based LRP publishes newsletters, books and online publications that are used by nearly all the nation’s 12,000 school districts, Kahn said.

As a special-education teacher and director in Orlando in the 1990s, Avossa read LRP’s publications, Kahn said. As a superintendent, Avossamade an unpaid presentation at LRP’s annual Future of Education Technology conference, an event that drew 10,000 educators this past month in Orlando.

After Avossa, 46, became Palm Beach County schools superintendent in 2015, Kahn said, the two saw one another about once a month at various functions of the Business Development Board, the Economic Council and the Education Foundation.

At an event in November, Avossa told Kahn that he had been contacted about other high-profile posts.

“I said, ‘Look, if you’re being recruited and you’re going to leave, talk to me first,’” Kahn said.

Asked if he was paying Avossa more than his superintendent’s salary of $334,750, Kahn said, “I am. Not a lot, but I am.”

Avossa had been mentioned as a possible candidate for superintendent in New York City, the nation’s largest public school system, but he said he didn’t want to leave Palm Beach County. Avossa called the job at LRP “truly unique.”

“I get to stay in the community I love and continue my work on a much larger scale,” Avossa wrote in a statement Friday. “I’ve certainly had offers floated to me for many roles over the last seven years (as superintendent), but a scenario that involved making my children change schools was a non-starter.”

Avossa has a child in high school and another in middle school.

Kahn’s pitch was smoothed by LRP’s status as the nation’s largest provider of content about special education, Avossa’s area of specialty. For LRP, Avossa brings the cachet that goes along with running one of the nation’s largest school districts and winning high marks for his performance.

“It’s a win-win for both of us,” Kahn said. “I wouldn’t have offered him the job if it wasn’t good for us.”

Kahn said he has plans for future growth in education publications and events, although he wouldn’t divulge details. Kahn, 70, said he didn’t offer Avossa the promise of becoming CEO of his $70 million-a-year operation.

Jana Kahn, Kahn’s wife and LRP’s chief marketing officer, is next in line.

“If I get hit by a bus, my wife takes over,” Kahn said.

In his resignation announcement Monday, Avossa said he wanted to spend more time with his family. Kahn said Avossa won’t have to attend meetings and events at night as an executive at LRP, and he’s likely to have more control over his schedule.

School board members were surprised by Avossa’s sudden departure, considering his glowing reviews in his most recent performance evaluation. Avossa became Palm Beach County’s superintendent in June 2015. He previously was superintendent of Fulton County Schools in Georgia for four years.

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