LAND O'LAKES — Pasco schools superintendent Heather Fiorentino stood before the district's administrative team Tuesday, talking about the need to work as a team and the importance of protecting jobs.
At that same time, word was spreading across the county that Fiorentino had dismissed assistant superintendent Ray Gadd. A few hours later, Fiorentino summoned district communications director Maureen Moore to tell her that she would also be out of a job come July 1.
The message to both: the time had come to "go in a new direction."
What that direction entails remains unclear. Fiorentino has refused to discuss reappointment matters with the St. Petersburg Times, and she hasn't told School Board members, either.
"She has informed us that there were going to be some realignments," chairman Frank Parker said. "I don't know what her plan is, other than that there were going to be some changes."
While the superintendent has hiring and firing power, board members noted, the authority to add and delete jobs sits with the board. And seeing that on June 2 the board had approved the positions that Gadd and Moore hold, some wondered what sort of new direction Fiorentino had in mind.
"I'm disappointed in the process," board member Kathryn Starkey said.
She spent Wednesday morning talking to board members from other Florida districts, asking how they have changed their administration organization in the current budget cutting climate. In most instances, Starkey said, she heard of collaboration, not directives from on high.
She suggested such a discussion needs to occur in Pasco before the board accepts Fiorentino's new direction.
Board member Joanne Hurley agreed that the board and superintendent need to work together. She held out hope that Fiorentino would reconsider the dismissal of Gadd, a 28-year veteran who spearheaded the district's push for the Penny for Pasco and oversaw construction of schools using that sales tax revenue.
"I'm a big enough person to admit when I've made a wrong decision," Hurley said. "I'd like other people to do the same."
She added that she would be researching all the options that the board has available in dealing with such controversial administrative issues.
No job for PHS' Futch
Those issues continued to bubble to the surface Wednesday in advance of the expected full release of Fiorentino's reappointment list this morning.
In eastern Pasco, word emerged that Fiorentino had rejected Pasco High principal Pat Reedy's selection of longtime assistant principal Robin Futch to serve another year in that position, even after Futch agreed to accept an entry-level administrator's salary to come out of retirement for the job.
E-mails indicate that Fiorentino considered the denial akin to telling all the teachers on deferred retirement extensions that they would not be renewed.
But in a letter to the district, Futch pointed out that Fiorentino's team had led her to believe that they had reached an agreement for her to return.
"I was raised to believe that loyalty was unwavering and that a person's word was their bond," Futch wrote.
"In the 37 years that I have worked in this district, I have exemplified these qualities in all that I do and am asking for the opportunity to continue."
In west Pasco, the situation involved longtime Gulf High assistant principal Tom Brochu. He got word that his 245-day contract, considered full time, would be reduced to 216 days, and that he would be reassigned from the flagship school to the Marchman Technical Education Center.
Again, Fiorentino would not comment. But some observers noted that Brochu, a friend of Parker's, had contributed $70 to Fiorentino's 2008 election opponent, Steve Donaldson.
Parker said he inquired about the move, and Fiorentino simply responded that she "did it. That's all."
"I had asked her ... was there a specific reason to move it other than 'realignments,'" he said. "She said it was just realignments. ... It's her prerogative, I'm afraid."
Moore, the communications director, said she was shocked to learn of her ouster. She ticked off a list of her department's accomplishments, including the pending rollout of a new voice mail system that should save the district $360,000 over three years.
"I did the best I could to manage the department in an effort to move forward," Moore said, adding that she had no idea what Fiorentino's new direction would be.
Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at blogs.tampabay.com/schools.