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Deal calls for early exit of Hernando County superintendent Wayne Alexander

BROOKSVILLE — On the day Hernando County schools reopened, superintendent Wayne Alexander's career with the school district took another step toward closure.

Alexander will leave his post on Sept. 11 — nine months before his contract expires — if the School Board approves a proposed agreement made public Monday and up for consideration this week.

Alexander would receive an additional 30 days of salary and benefits on his last day. The exact amount of the payout was unclear on Monday. Alexander, who started at the district in July 2007, receives a salary of $132,745 including car allowance.

The agreement calls the proposal "a mutual decision" on the part of Alexander and the board. His contract was scheduled to end June 30.

"The parties have decided that it's in the best interests of the District, its students and Dr. Alexander and his family to end their professional relationship as reflected herein," the one-page agreement states.

The board will consider the deal at a special meeting slated for 9 a.m. Thursday. It is also expected to discuss who should fill in as interim superintendent.

Newly hired assistant superintendent Sonya Jackson has been mentioned by board members as the logical choice.

Neither Alexander nor board Chairwoman Dianne Bonfield returned calls for comment Monday.

A clause in Alexander's contract gives the board the power to fire Alexander for cause, such as misfeasance or insubordination.

Another clause provides for a mutual decision that would give Alexander 30 days' notice. The clause gives the board the option to pay Alexander for 30 days but have him leave immediately.

The agreement up for debate this week states that the revision to Alexander's contract "shall not be considered as a performance assessment or evaluation."

In reality, that's exactly what it is.

The settlement comes after months of eroding support for Alexander from the five School Board members.

Problems started in January, when it became public that Alexander had begun looking for jobs in New England. Questions arose about whether Alexander had breached his contract by not informing the board in a timely manner, but the current board did not order an investigation.

Alexander resigned in February, citing a need to be with his new wife and two stepchildren in New England. He had planned to move them to Florida, but that was blocked by a child visitation dispute between his new wife and her ex-husband.

Alexander rescinded his resignation the following week, calling it "an emotional response to family needs."

By then, though, Alexander had lost the support of two board members.

Pat Fagan and James Yant said Alexander had been less than forthright about his search for jobs in New England. They also questioned his commitment to the district and whether he could be an effective leader with one foot out the door.

Yant and Fagan moved for Alexander's early termination, but Bonfield and board members Sandra Nicholson and John Sweeney remained in his corner.

In April, the teachers union tried to persuade the board to oust Alexander. The Hernando Classroom Teachers Association said Alexander's proposed budget cuts were irresponsible and that he fostered nepotism in the district.

"That (stance) has not changed," union president Joe Vitalo said Monday.

At the end of a regular board meeting Aug. 11, Bonfield dropped a bomb: now it was time for Alexander to go, she said, and she sought support from fellow board members to start negotiations to arrange his departure as soon as possible.

Bonfield cited reports from teachers in recent weeks that some elementary school administrators had tacitly approved a policy to avoid giving zeroes to students for missed work and set a minimum F grade for poor work at 50 percent. The board shot that proposal down in June, despite Alexander's endorsement.

A few days later, Nicholson said she, too, would support Alexander's departure. Nicholson cited Alexander's recent personnel decisions as one of the factors.

Fagan declined to comment Monday on the terms of the proposal.

"I'd like to hear what other board members think about this and vote my decision then," Fagan said. "He definitely needs to leave."

Nicholson agreed, though she wouldn't comment on the terms, either.

"It's time, and I wish him well," she said. "No hard feelings, but it's time to move on."

Board member Sweeney called the decision "inevitable."

"My first concern is to safeguard the district," Sweeney said.

Does this agreement do that?

"I think so," he said.

Tony Marrero can be reached at tmarrero@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1431.

Deal calls for early exit of Hernando County superintendent Wayne Alexander 08/24/09 [Last modified: Monday, August 24, 2009 7:12pm]
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