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Decision is final: Hernando schools facilities director Bo Bavota is out

BROOKSVILLE — When a School Board member asked superintendent Wayne Alexander earlier this month to reconsider the termination of the man who has overseen millions of dollars worth of school construction projects over the last five years, Alexander said he would take it under advisement.

Facilities director Roland "Bo'' Bavota is apparently going after all.

The district posted Bavota's position on its human resources Web page Thursday, eliminating any doubt that Alexander still plans to replace him.

Bavota, 61, said he wasn't surprised.

"It's his feeling you're not on his team if you dare to ask a question or disagree," Bavota said.

Bavota had a run-in with Alexander in December over the purchase of a piece of machinery called a trash pulper. Alexander claimed Bavota had shown "gross insubordination" by buying the $67,000 pulper for J.D. Floyd Elementary School against Alexander's direction.

Bavota said Alexander warned him then his annual work contract would not be renewed come spring.

Bavota denied that he disobeyed Alexander and fought a three-day unpaid suspension. Alexander backpedaled and issued a written reprimand and Bavota's salary was repaid. But he stood behind the charge that Bavota had misled him about the pulper.

On Thursday, Bavota questioned the justification for the decision not to renew his contract. He said Alexander gave him a dismal evaluation about two weeks ago.

Employee evaluations do not immediately become public record, and Bavota did not have the document on hand Thursday. But he says Alexander gave him just 17 points out of a possible 33.

That means Bavota "needs improvement," but he was just one point above an overall "unsatisfactory" evaluation, according to a key on the form.

Bavota said he earned low marks in the categories rating his communication with his supervisor — Alexander — and his leadership skills.

He refused to sign the evaluation and said he plans to write a rebuttal.

Other than the trash pulper incident, Bavota says he has not been given any indication that his overall performance was lacking. "I should have been brought in for conferences where we discussed how I've not met expectations," he said. "There was none of that."

The superintendent has the power to hire and fire administrators independent of the School Board.

The evaluation was a marked departure from those Bavota received between 2005 and 2007 when he answered to Ken Pritz, who served then as director of support services.

In 2005, Pritz called Bavota after his first year on the job "a tremendous asset to the district."

In 2006, Pritz wrote, "He continues to complete projects with as few delays as possible."

And in 2007: "He is a take-charge leader who gets the job right the first time."

The new or improved buildings that have risen on school campuses at or under budget are testaments to his performance, Bavota said. By his count, he has overseen some $170 million in renovations, additions and new school construction since joining the district in 2004.

Pat Fagan, the board member who urged Alexander to keep Bavota, said he can attest to the job Bavota has done in the last five years and called his termination a mistake.

"Personality needs to be out of this," Fagan said. "It needs to be based on the work (Bavota) has done for the school district. You have to take in consideration more than just one evaluation."

Board member Sandra Nicholson backed Alexander's decision, saying she believes Bavota was insubordinate. Nicholson said she was in Alexander's office last year as he talked by phone with Bavota about the pulper and that Bavota was clearly being argumentative.

"I as an employer feel like Dr. Alexander has shown quite a bit of restraint with the gentleman," she said.

Alexander did not return calls seeking comment Thursday.

The district will now have two vacancies to fill.

Maintenance director Ken Hill plans to retire June 15 after 15 years with the district. Hill, 53, said Thursday he wants to spend more time with his family.

Hill would have led a merged facilities and maintenance department. Alexander had recommended the merger to save about $800,000, but board members rejected the move, saying they wanted to ensure that construction projects had proper oversight.

Fagan said he worries that with both Hill and Bavota leaving at the same time, the departments could go adrift.

Bavota, who was paid a salary of $81,000, said he'd planned to stay with the district until he turned 65 or until he wasn't having fun anymore. His last day is June 30.

"I've done a very, very good job for this district and I leave with my head held high," he said.

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

Decision is final: Hernando schools facilities director Bo Bavota is out 05/14/09 [Last modified: Thursday, May 14, 2009 8:21pm]

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