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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

A weekend interview with Hernando School Board member James Yant

Yant The Hernando County School Board has split over the performance of superintendent Wayne Alexander, who lately has been popping up as a finalist for other jobs even as he pledges to remain true to Hernando. Board member James Yant has found himself in the minority in pushing for Alexander's dismissal. He spoke with reporter Jeff Solochek about his views on why the district needs new leadership.

How did the board get so divided over the superintendent to this degree?

I think that the reason, the decisions that I have made over the superintendent ... I don't make any decisions that I don't think are good for the student. I'm looking at the welfare of the student. And if the superintendent shows his loyalty elsewhere, that's telling me he's not really interested in this county. So whatever we do, we have to think about the education and the welfare of the student. ...

The superintendent, he told you he was committed to the school district. Then he turned around and started looking for another job. I'm curious how that fits in with anybody's view of what's right for the school district.

Well, that's one thing I don't know. If committed to this district, he probably should not be looking for a job. I look at it as honor and commitment. If you have a contract and you say you are going to do something, that's the image that we are sending the children. That it's okay to promise something and then break the promise. That's what I see. And I think it's the wrong message to send to the children.

Would there be any way that he could win your confidence back?

It would be very difficult. Because I see that as one issue. But I see withholding information as another issue, not giving all the facts. I don't see how we can make reasonable decisions as a board and not have all of the information to make the decisions with. And not make the decisions that he wants us to make, but make the decisions that are best for the district. There are oftentimes issues where the facts are not always presented. And I have a problem with that. That's a personal issue that he would have to deal with. Because it deals with honor and commitment.

So you basically want to see him get one of these jobs and be gone.

Well, I think that would be best for the district. Because his interests are not here. If the interests were here, he wouldn't be interviewing for all these positions. I am sure he would have to have an interest in his family. But there is still a commitment to this district. ... The sooner we can get back on track the better. There is no sense in prolonging something that is inevitable.

If the school district is going to end up looking for another superintendent, what do you think you should look for, knowing what you've seen with Alexander?

Well, I think we should not put a lot of emphasis on a doctoral degree. I think there are a lot of people out there with master's degrees that are capable of bringing this district back together. See, we are divided as a school board. We are divided as a community. And we all have to look at ourselves, and this comes from the top. We need someone to bring this community back together. And if it means that a local person can do that, that's what we need to do.

Is there someone you have in mind?

I don't have anyone in mind right at this point. It would be premature to say that until I can find out who's out there. But I know there are capable people in this county who can bring our community together. In order to get through hard economic times, we need to be united as a community and a board, rather than as we are now. We are fragmented. We are separated. We can't function well when we are not united.

Do you think Hernando needs to go back to an elected superintendent?

The elected superintendents, there are issues with that as well. When you deal with an elected superintendent, if by chance Dr. Alexander had been elected, and he had not been doing what he's supposed to do, he's got that period of time in office -- at least four years. So I don't know if the elected superintendent would be best. Now, the elected superintendent would always be the most popular. But sometimes they won't be the best qualified. I think it's up to the board to choose the most qualified person and not develop friendships and relationships where we let that outweigh making reasonable decisions for the district.

Do you think that happens now?

Well, when I look at some of the things, I think there is favoritism in certain instances. That should not exist. we should as a board put the student first. And in putting the student first, that would not be an issue. ..

Can you give me any examples?

I would prefer not to do that. That would inflame the situation a little more. All that I am saying has been in the newspapers. It hasn't been pinpointed, but it has been in the newspapers. But I'm not saying something that everybody doesn't know.

Do you have a sense of when this might all be resolved?

I think that it appears that Dr. Alexander may get one of the jobs this month. It appears that way. And if he doesn't, then the majority of the board now supports what he is doing and the direction he is going. I don't really support him. But the majority of the board does. ... Then there's Mr. Fagan and I. We're looking to get the district back on track. ... The longer we prolong this, it's just a matter of hanging on to something that is going to happen. It's just a matter of time before it happens.

[Last modified: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 10:23am]


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