Sunday, January 21, 2018
Education

Browning pledges 'no surprises' to Pasco School Board

LAND O'LAKES — New superintendent Kurt Browning forged ahead with his school district reorganization plans Tuesday with another round of administrative appointments.

Browning also set forth his "no surprises" philosophy in dealing with Pasco School Board members.

"No surprises, that's one of my foundational pillars," Browning told the board, promising "open communications, timely and complete."

Board members welcomed his approach, offering ways it can work more cooperatively with the administration and approving several new leaders unanimously and without comment.

"We always say we don't like surprises," board chairwoman Cynthia Armstrong said.

During its Tuesday meeting, the board authorized the appointments of assistant superintendents Ray Gadd and Amelia Van Name Larson, and professional development director Chris Christoff.

Even before that approval, Browning announced his plans for other district leaders — one of whom would replace Christoff.

He said Tom Barker, executive director for elementary education, would become principal at Crews Lake Middle School, where Christoff has been principal since it opened. Barker, who did not attend the board meeting, was principal at Shady Hills Elementary School before moving to the district office.

Shady Hills feeds into Crews Lake. Barker's connection to the community was a key consideration for Browning, who wants to see Crews Lake continue its success as an A-rated school while serving a heavily low-income community.

Browning also announced that assistant superintendent for curriculum John Mann, who retires at the end of the school year, will be moved to an unnamed department for the remainder of his tenure. Mann, informed of his transfer shortly before the meeting, did not want to reveal his new assignment until he could meet with members of the department staff.

The latter two moves will come to the School Board for approval on Dec. 18. Browning said he wanted to give the board a heads-up on his plans.

During a workshop later in the morning, Browning told the board how he expected members to deal with his staff.

"I would like, if there is no objection, to have board members funnel requests for information through the appropriate assistant superintendent," Browning said. "They will be the gatekeepers."

Former superintendent Heather Fiorentino assigned a different top administrator to serve as a liaison to each board member.

Browning said all board requests would get an answer, which then would circulate to the full board to ensure everyone has the same information.

Armstrong returned the favor, recommending that all board members give Browning plenty of lead time when they intend to ask for information about an item on the consent agenda.

"That gives staff time to research and have the appropriate person at our meeting to answer questions," she explained, getting nod of acceptance from the board.

Speaking of the agenda, Browning told the board he expected to have the meeting schedule finalized by 2 p.m. on the Tuesday before each session. With the exception of late-breaking personnel and purchasing issues, he said, the board should not look for "walk on" items added late to the agenda.

The idea is to make the district's business as transparent as possible, Browning said.

The board later went into executive session to discuss contract negotiations with the employees. United School Employees of Pasco president Lynne Webb urged them to look for ways to give the staff something other than more furlough days and pay freezes.

"Our employee working conditions are the students' learning conditions," she said.

Negotiations, which have been on hold, are expected to resume next week.

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at [email protected], (813) 909-4614 or on Twitter @jeffsolochek. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at tampabay.com/blogs/gradebook.

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