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Hernando school district releases evaluation documents on Superintendent Lori Romano

By Megan Reeves
Hernando County School Board evaluations of Superintendent Lori Romano became public this week, showing both praise and criticism of her performance.

Forms completed by Hernando County School Board members last month evaluating Superintendent Lori Romano were released to the Tampa Bay Times this week after the district declined the newspaper’s request for them last month.

Following an Oct. 17 workshop — where Romano gave a presentation to illustrate her successes since appointed in 2013 and board members offered her verbal feedback — the school district’s attorney cited a Florida Statute that states: “No material derogatory to an employee shall be open to inspection until 10 days after the employee has been notified.”

Romano told the Times she wanted a chance to review the documents, which contain numerical ratings and handwritten notes by board members on her performance, so she could “provide a public response.”

On Thursday, in a statement to the Times, she called it "vitally important" to remain open to feedback and ways to improve.

The documents show much of what was already said publicly during the meeting. While some board members — like Gus Guadagnino, who gave Romano a perfect score — think the superintendent is doing a stellar job, others call for improvement.

There were nine categories on the evaluation form, including leadership and district culture, policy and governance, communications and community relations, organizational management, curriculum planning development, instructional leadership, human resources management, values and ethics of leadership, and labor relations.

Romano could receive a score of 1 (needs improvement), 2 (proficient), or 3 (outstanding) in each category.

Guadagnino gave Romano straight 3s and praised her improvements in communication. In a letter, he said “another way of me expressing my evaluation of your performance for the last year (is), as Frank Sinatra would sing, “It Was A Very Good Year.”

Board member Linda Prescott gave Romano all 2s, except on instructional leadership and labor relations, for which she marked 3s. She praised the superintendent for many things, like her work to keep the district safe, support of data-driven instruction and initiation of community partnerships to support schools and students, but she also noted some shortfalls.

Prescott wrote that Romano needs further development “fostering a culture of trust and appreciation to cultivate a shared sense of purpose and collaboration amongst all stakeholders” and called for more timely and quality communication between district departments, schools and parents.

Board member Susan Duval gave Romano a 3 in organizational management and a score of 1 in values and ethics of leadership, labor relations, and communications and community relations. The rest she marked as 2s.

In her minimal comments, Duval noted concerns about Romano’s “difficulty maintaining an effective relationship with staff members” and staff turnover.

Instead of filling out the numerical form like all other board members did, Mark Johnson wrote a six-page letter that called Romano “effective to highly effective in moving this district forward in difficult financial times.”

Johnson said his review was based on the four “indicators of performance” listed in the superintendent’s contract — student attendance, graduation rate, industry certifications and dropout rate — all of which have improved under her leadership. Romano is in the fifth year of a seven-year contract.

School Board Chair Beth Narverud’s marks on Romano were the lowest, reflecting the harsh criticisms she gave the superintendent at the October meeting. Of the nine categories, six were marked as 1s.

She gave the superintendent two 2s, in curriculum planning development and instructional leadership, and the only 3 she offered was in organizational management, noting improvements in the budget and Romano’s leadership during Hurricane Irma, when several schools opened as storm shelters.

Narverud claimed lack of transparency and communication, trouble getting public records requests filled and untrue statements made to the press by Romano. She also criticized the superintendent for last-minute changes to her cabinet just before the start of school this year and her challenging of the recent districtwide survey on her performance (found here in its entirety).

In the statement, Romano said while the evaluation is of her work as superintendent, "it is also a strong reflection of the outstanding work of our school and district staff."

"Our determined effort and dedication to student success has (been) and will remain our focus," she said.