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Hernando County School Board essentially shelves superintendent's plan to reorganize administration

BROOKSVILLE — They liked the structure but balked at the potential price tag.

All four School Board members at Tuesday's workshop commended new superintendent Bryan Blavatt for his vision to reorganize the administration at district headquarters. But despite promises from Blavatt to keep costs to a minimum, the board essentially told him to shelve the plan for now.

"Your organizational chart is a chart for a perfect world," board member Dianne Bonfield told Blavatt. "Unfortunately, we don't have a perfect world right now, nor do we have the financial resources to support that."

Blavatt sought permission to bring back a formal proposal based on the general plan he presented Tuesday. The reorganization would add an assistant superintendent, among other changes.

An assistant superintendent for "teaching and learning" would oversee most of the district's instructional components and departments, such as principals, curriculum and assessment, community and adult education, and professional development. Another assistant superintendent would be for student support services, overseeing federal programs such as Title I, exceptional student education, student services, and the nuts-and-bolts departments of facilities, maintenance and transportation.

The district has one assistant superintendent who oversees most departments. Hernando County ranks at the bottom for spending on administration, a point of pride that has now become a liability because service from the district to the school level is suffering, Blavatt told board members.

"Putting all the eggs in one basket under one assistant superintendent is not the most beneficial way to address the concerns of a school district with more than 22,000 students," he said. "Sometimes you've got to do a little more to become efficient. Believe me, it wasn't easy for me to come to the board at this point after we've gone through so many other (budget issues) and say we need to do this."

During the discussion, Blavatt promised not to bring back a proposal with a significant cost. But while board members acknowledged the logic of the plan, they were hesitant or outright opposed to moving forward if it meant spending more money that could be used at the school level.

"My first priority right now more than anything, Mr. Blavatt, is to make sure we have enough teachers in the classroom," chairman Pat Fagan said.

Property value estimates released last week show the school district's taxable value has decreased by more than 12 percent. That could translate to a $7.3 million hit to the budget compared to last year, chief financial officer Desiree Henegar said Tuesday.

Board member James Yant said the board needs to act like a business by keeping Blavatt's plan in mind and then jump into action when financial conditions are right.

"I think we need to be as conservative as possible and position ourselves to take advantage when the business cycle goes up," Yant said.

Board member Sandra Nicholson agreed.

"We can't keep going and have less and less supervision and accountability," Nicholson said.

Board member John Sweeney was traveling out of state and did not attend the workshop.

After the meeting, Blavatt said he would try to come up with a restructuring proposal that wouldn't cost money.

"I've got to get it to the point where it's a wash," he said.

The board did give its blessing Tuesday to another strategy that Blavatt said would help him run the district.

Blavatt will organize several standing advisory groups that will be given the task of keeping up on a certain issue and reporting back to the superintendent. Among his recommendations is a committee to study the issue of student activity fees to help offset the costs of providing sports and other extracurricular programs. Another group would study ways to keep the student code of conduct up to date.

Blavatt also will form a student advisory group composed of student leaders from each school to meet with him regularly.

"I could get direct input from our stakeholders," he said.

The board agreed to dissolve its existing magnet school committee, which will be replaced by an advisory group on the topic that would report to the superintendent.

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

Hernando County School Board essentially shelves superintendent's plan to reorganize administration 06/01/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 1, 2010 8:34pm]
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