Friday, November 24, 2017
Education

Browning seeks Pasco School Board input in transition plans

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LAND O'LAKES — Kurt Browning has made no secret of his desire to reorganize the Pasco County School District administration, which he hopes to start running in November as the new superintendent.

He wants buy-in from the School Board before he reveals the details, though.

So while he awaits the general election, in which he faces a lone write-in candidate, Browning is studying successful school districts and conferring with board members about what they're willing to accept.

"Before I get too far down the road, I want to make sure they know what's going on and that they're okay with it," said Browning, who met with board members Allen Altman and Steve Luikart on Monday.

Browning, who defeated two-term superintendent Heather Fiorentino in the August Republican primary, is taking a collaborative approach that's winning praise from the School Board, which had grown accustomed to being told what the administration wanted.

"I don't think we were encouraged to be parts of conversations," Luikart said. "I always felt like we were there, like (Fiorentino) told me, for policies and procedures only. Everything else, keep your nose out of."

Board member Alison Crumbley found Browning's initiative refreshing — even though it means Browning is sharing his thoughts with board members individually before releasing his plan to the public.

"Maybe he wants to get more feedback from us before he makes his comments," said Crumbley, who is set to sit down with Browning today. "That would be a great thing. That has been absent in the past."

There's a more practical issue at hand, Browning said. He's not releasing all of his thoughts on how to run the district because they're not yet fully fleshed out.

That being the case, he said, it's best to remain "cagey" so as not to upset district staff unnecessarily.

"I just don't want to go there yet," Browning said. "They don't need to worry about it. One of the guiding principles I'm using in the reorganization is, we're looking at function, not personnel. … We have not put any names on the deck chairs."

Despite repeated requests, he also declined to name the people whose advice he has sought.

"I don't want to share with you who is advising me yet. I think there are going to be conclusions drawn if I share that with you now," Browning said. "You're going to know in due time. … But I'm trying to be objective about the reorganization."

Altman acknowledged that anxiety is a reality in the district offices, just as it is in any office during a time of transition. But he offered only support for the efforts that his longtime friend, neighbor and business partner has in mind for redirecting the school district.

"So far, what he shared with me (Monday) night is that he has learned from talking to hundreds of people in the district and examining the governance models of successful, high-performing districts around this nation," Altman said. "I think he's right now dead on track of where he's thinking that things need to go."

Luikart sounded equally impressed.

"He's going to try to do the right things for the right reasons," he said. "Everything he said was right on target."

Browning also listened, Luikart added, asking questions about departments and culture, and even hurdles he might face. Luikart shared his own experiences battling the district to get information.

Luikart walked away with the impression that things will change on that front, too.

"He said the board and the district are going to be working together for the same cause, for the students," he said.

Added Altman: "The sense that I get from those out there who have a desire to see Pasco County recognized for excellence is that they are excited for the future."

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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