Ms. Cynthia Saunders
Since being sworn in on June 28, 2018, Superintendent Cynthia Saunders has led the School District of Manatee County with foresight, energy and imagination. Drawing on more than 30 years of service in education in Florida, Ms. Saunders has guided the district to impressive improvements academically, financially and in introducing innovative new programs and initiatives.
When Ms. Saunders arrived in Manatee County as Executive Director of Secondary Schools in 2013, the District had 18 “D” or “F” schools. By the end of her first year as superintendent, the District had eliminated all “F” schools and reduced the number of “D” schools to two. By the end of the 2020-2021 school year, the district had eliminated all “D” and “F” schools. Also, during her tenure, the district’s academic ranking amongst Florida’s 67 school districts has risen from 33rd to 28th - the district’s highest ranking ever.
Financially, the district’s healthy fund balance is growing steadily and its financial ratings are strong. She has worked with the School Board to increase pay for all employees each year as Superintendent, especially teacher pay. Pay for starting teachers in Manatee County now ranks among the highest in the state and increases in compensation for all teachers helps the district attract and retain high-quality educators and support staff.
In November 2021, Superintendent Saunders led the charge to renew a 1-Mill property tax referendum first passed by Manatee County voters in 2018 by a 51% to 49% margin. The additional mill provides students with 30 extra minutes of instructional time each school day, keeps teacher and staff pay competitive, expands STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math) programs and helps charter schools. Under her leadership, county voters approved the renewal by a margin of 69% to 31%.
Perhaps Ms. Saunders’ most monumental impact has been in introducing exciting new learning opportunities to the approximately 50,000 students in the Manatee District.
Since 2019, the district collaborated with Apple Inc., co-founder Steve Wozniak to make Palm View K-8 the first WOZ Ed Career’s Pathway school in the state of Florida. WOZ Ed teaches elementary students about coding, engineering, drones, cyber-security and mobile development. Other imaginative initiatives include a Community Partnership School at Manatee Elementary; a Dual Language Program at Daughtrey Elementary and Braden River Elementary; an Agricultural Magnet at Myakka Elementary; a Health Science Magnet at Lincoln Memorial Middle; a Construction Apprenticeship at Bayshore High and a Bloomberg Finance Dual program at Southeast High.
Since February 2020, Ms. Saunders has led the school district through the challenges of COVID-19. Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, she has kept Manatee District schools open and serving students. She has ended each of the last two school years on time and provided Manatee County high school graduates in-person graduation ceremonies to celebrate their success.
In December 2020, Ms. Saunders was named the 2020 STAR Superintendent of the Year by the Consortium of Florida Education Foundations for her strong support and dedication of the Manatee Education Foundation.
Student or School Concern / General Inquiry
For help with an educational, curriculum, classroom or discipline issue, contact your child's school Principal as the first step toward a resolution. View our School Directory listed by school for a phone number, address or Principal's name.
If you and the Principal do not reach a solution, contact the District Office at 941-708-8770 and ask to speak with the Elementary Executive Director or Secondary Executive Director for your child’s school.