Majority of Hernando School Board ready to boot superintendent
Chairwoman Dianne Bonfield stunned fellow board members at the conclusion of Tuesday night’s board meeting by seeking support to get Alexander to leave “as soon as possible.”
Though no official vote was taken, Bonfield had the backing of two of the other four board members -- Pat Fagan and James Yant -- to direct board attorney Paul Carland to meet with Alexander to try to arrange his early departure.
Without any severance, Bonfield said.
“I’ve lost the faith, trust and the confidence that our CEO, Dr. Alexander, can move the district in the manner in which this board has prescribed,” Bonfield said.
The board had just finished discussing a pending lawsuit against the district by two Pasco County students seeking to remain at Nature Coast Technical High School when Bonfield dropped her bombshell.
District policy forbids non-county residents from attending magnet schools, but officials discovered earlier this year that as many as 20 have been admitted in recent years, apparently in error. Bonfield asked for an investigation and said she’d hoped results would be ready by Tuesday.
Bonfield cited the Nature Coast admissions debacle as one reason for her lack of faith in Alexander, who is beginning his third year with the district.
“I feel strongly that there has not been accountability, and there has not been oversight,” she said.
But Bonfield said she was most concerned about how proposed changes to the district’s grading policy for elementary students were presented to the board. She expressed frustration that the recent proposals to eliminate grades of zero for missed assignments and set a minimum F grade of 49 for poor work were included among a host of mostly insignificant changes to the district’s policy handbook during a June 16 workshop. The board eventually shot down the idea.
Worse, she said, she has been approached in recent weeks by teachers who said that administrators at their schools had already encouraged a similar approach to grading.
“If we don’t have students earning equally on a scale that is the same for everyone, what does that say for our school system?” Bonfield said. “And what does it say when that’s breached and the board doesn’t even know?”
As Bonfield talked, Alexander sat quietly, frowning, looking down at the dais and taking notes.
When the meeting adjourned a few minutes later, Carland looked over at Alexander.
“I guess I’ll see you tomorrow,” he said.
“Maybe, maybe not,” Alexander replied. “I’m feeling kind of sick.”
Alexander then shook his head when a reporter asked him for a comment.
The board can terminate Alexander’s contract as part of stipulations in that document, but there likely will be a question of whether Bonfield’s concerns rise to that level.
When asked after the meeting if she would move to fire Alexander for cause if he decides he wants to stay or fights for a severance package, Bonfield said yes.
“Because I believe there is cause,” she said.
Alexander’s contract ends June 30, 2010. He plans to leave to return to New England to be with his wife and stepchildren who, Alexander has said, are trapped there because of a child visitation dispute.
Earlier this year, Fagan and Yant tried to garner support to oust Alexander because, they said, he was initially less than forthright about his job search and plans to leave. They also said they worried about the instability caused by having a leader in place who could leave at any time.
But Bonfield at that time had sided with board members John Sweeney and Sandra Nicholson, who supported Alexander.
Nicholson spoke up for him again during Tuesday’s meeting, though she also said she shared Bonfield’s concerns about the board often being the last to know about problems.
“A lot of the changes he made were long overdue,” Nicholson said. “I personally told him I don’t think he did enough. This county eats their own, and they do it with a vengeance. “
Just a few hours before Bonfield made her announcement, the board during a workshop approved a timeline and search process to have Alexander’s successor hired by February and in place July 1.
-- Tony Marrero, Times Staff Writer