BROOKSVILLE — In an unexpected shakeup at the highest level of the Hernando County School District, superintendent Lori Romano on Monday relieved assistant superintendent Ken Pritz of his responsibilities for guiding instruction.
Pritz will be moved to the district's plant operation site, taking over as the manager of warehouse and purchasing. He will retain his current salary and the title of assistant superintendent through the end of the fiscal year.
"I was totally shocked," Pritz, a district employee for more than 30 years, told the Tampa Bay Times on Monday afternoon. "I thought until this morning that we had a good working relationship. … I really liked working with Dr. Romano."
Romano said she moved Pritz to plant operations because it is a strength of his and "we needed experience in that area."
Romano, who has been on the job for six months, said the move is not a demotion and will help move the district forward.
"Teaching and learning was not an area of strength for him," she said. "I need someone in that department who can lead the work."
Pritz said Romano handed him a memo on Monday morning informing him of her decision.
"It has become clear that your actions have been counterproductive to the current direction of the school district," the brief letter began. "Therefore, effective immediately, you will be physically housed at the plant operation site of the school district and will fulfill the job responsibilities of manager of the warehouse and purchasing."
Pritz said he didn't know what those actions were and that he didn't get answers when he tried to ask Romano.
Pritz says he has never received a verbal or written reprimand from her.
Romano said they've often discussed areas of concern.
"We have had many individual meetings where we discussed his lack of interest in the area of curriculum," she said.
After receiving the memo around 9:30 a.m., Pritz took the rest of the day off.
Later that day, district officials, principals and School Board members received a memo sent from Pritz about the position change.
"I am excited about this opportunity and look forward to getting back to some of the work in which I was previously involved," part of the memo read.
Pritz said he didn't write the letter and didn't authorize it. The letter is unsigned.
Pritz, 55, is in his 34th year with the district. He has worn many hats, including principal and assistant principal. He has spent nearly a decade at the district office. He is credited with turning around Hernando High School, moving it from a D to a B.
But there is one job he's never done: superintendent.
Pritz has applied for the superintendent position three times, including the most recent search that resulted in Romano being hired.
Board members Matt Foreman and Cynthia Moore had Pritz as their first choice. Moore declined to comment until she spoke with the superintendent. Foreman said he thinks the world of Pritz and that he is a "fine man."
"Romano is completely within her rights to make personnel decisions as she sees fit," he said. "I'm going to withhold judgment and further comment until I can gather more information."
Danny Valentine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1432. On Twitter: @HernandoTimes.