BROOKSVILLE — They didn't exactly hug, but the Hernando County School Board and superintendent Bryan Blavatt on Tuesday tried to clear the air of tension created by biting comments Blavatt made last month.
At a June 30 workshop, Blavatt called the board one of the "most dysfunctional" he's worked with in a 40-year career in education, and he asked board members to consider whether he and the board made for a good "marriage."
On Tuesday, chairman James Yant asked Blavatt to clarify his commitment to the district.
"I think the community needs to be reassured of your position and where you stand on that, because if it's a bad marriage, no one stays in a bad marriage," Yant said.
Blavatt's response: "I wasn't asking for a divorce. I was saying we have problems."
Blavatt, whose contract runs until June 30, 2013, said he took the job thinking the board wanted an experienced superintendent who could mentor staffers and offer stability. He said he still wonders if he and the board had the same vision.
"Given all of that . . . my intent is to honor what I set out to do," he said. "I'm not going to bail on anybody, and I'm certainly not going to bail on the children of this district because we as a family have an argument or disagree."
Blavatt's comments last month came after the board shot down his third attempt to reorganize the district office. He said then that the board's oversight had become "micromanaging" and told the board to let him do his job or fire him.
On Tuesday, he reiterated concerns that the board "recycles" issues, stalling progress. He said he still worries about his failed reorganization efforts.
"It's like being a head coach and not being able to choose your assistants," he said.
Yant said the "dysfunctional" comment nagged at him.
"That's a label that we have now," he said.
Vice chairwoman Dianne Bonfield agreed, calling Blavatt's comments rude and offensive. "If we're going to have a good working relationship, I find it very difficult to have an employee call his boss dysfunctional," Bonfield said.
That could be the crux of the conflict, Blavatt replied. He acknowledged the board's governing role but said he sees the relationship between chief executive and board as "a team approach."
"You do employ me, but that should not hinder my ability to make professional observations," he said. "That's what you pay me for. It was not intended to be a personal attack."
Bonfield suggested Blavatt needed to consider the district's history to understand current issues.
"I would say one of the impediments to moving forward is the obsession about what's happened in the past in this district," he replied.
He acknowledged, though, that he probably needs to do a better job conveying his vision for the district.
"I will make more of an effort to keep you folks informed," he said. "The only thing I ask is that we follow the appropriate chain of command."
Yant brought up the matter after Blavatt asked the board, in what he called a spirit of increased communication, what issues they wanted to discuss at the next workshop.
Board member John Sweeney said he blanched at the "dysfunctional" comment, too. But Blavatt and the board had weathered the storm of budget cuts relatively well, Sweeney said.
The reorganization stalemate will probably be resolved with time, he said, and the arrival of a governor-appointed fifth board member would change the dynamic.
Tuesday's discussion helped, too, Sweeney said.
"I'll feel a lot better after we leave this meeting," he said.