A weekend interview with ...
... Hernando County School Board chairman Pat Fagan. First elected in 2004, Fagan is no stranger to Hernando education and politics. He taught in the school system for a few years and served as Brooksville mayor before becoming county Parks and Recreation director, a job he has held for more than 30 years. Now he's negotiating a contract for the county's new superintendent, and he has some thoughts about what the schools CEO needs to do. "Once he gets on board, which will be hopefully by mid-June if it all goes well, he's got a lot of work," Fagan says.
"One of the most important things that we need the superintendent to do is get out into the community and communicate with them what is going on in the school system. He needs to get out and identify himself to them. He needs to let the public know who he is ... and what he believes the school system needs. ... He's the No. 2 selection and he was close. No. 1, to be honest with you, the only reason we as a board selected (Henry LaCava) over (Wayne) Alexander was years in the Florida school system. For whatever reason (LaCava) couldn't accept what we had to offer him. I think Alexander will make a good superintendent. He knows where we're coming from. Community involvement is our No. 1 priority. ...
I just feel like our superintendent (retiring Wendy Tellone) did not get out and visit with the public as much as she should have. She did not get out and meet with the business leaders and chambers of commerce. And I think it's very important to meet more with the parents of students. ... I brought up the issue at meetings about the possibility of a deputy superintendent. My personal view is, I think that needs to be looked at. That will give the superintendent the opportunity to get out there and meet and greet and sell the school system. ... We have got to sell ourselves. Selling the school system as such, selling what our educational programs are and what we're trying to do for the betterment of the children: Less concerns with overcrowding, better programs, working closer with those kids that do have problems with school, and looking at our concerns with kids dropping out of school.
I'm not saying it wasn't all done. But we need to do more of it. We're looking at what's going on in Tallahassee with the changes they're making with property taxes and the like. We've got to do our fair share. There is going to be an impact. I know they're talking about not taking a lot away from the schools, but we've got to look at that.
I expect (Alexander) to come in and look at how we are operating the school system, make recommendations of how we can change things, make things better, and look to the future. Growth is here and we're going to see more of it. We've got to sell our community on what we do. We're building new schools. We're upgrading existing schools. I don't think the public knows a lot of what is going on. If we ever want to go out again for a sales tax renewal in the future, or if we need additional funding for schools, if people see that we are spending money wisely, I think they will support whatever future endeavors we have.
... What worked 4-5 years ago might not work today. We've got to evaluate all programs and all commitments that the school district has. And we've got to make sure as a School Board that the public understands, and we need to have more input from the public than we've had in the past to make sure we do what the public wants.
We're working on school concurrency now. ... Within the last couple of years a lot of homes went up. We've got some major developers coming into the county right now. Concurrency will go into effect in December of this year. We've got to make sure that the School Board presents to the community and the county that they provide ... The county and the school system are working together on it. ... I believe they've done a lot of work on it and we will get there by December. It will make the developers responsible for whatever impact they have on the children coming into the county.
We've got a consultant that is working on the school impact fee as well. Hopefully they will come back with a better reasoning behind impact fees and hopefully it will better reflect how much capital we need. We need as much money as we can possibly get to build new infracture to serve new development."