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Hernando County School Board willing to offer incoming chief more money

Incoming Hernando County school superintendent Lori Romano, left, meets with J. Lisle Bozeman, the district’s manager of planning and grant development, during a meet and greet.

OCTAVIO JONES | Times

Incoming Hernando County school superintendent Lori Romano, left, meets with J. Lisle Bozeman, the district’s manager of planning and grant development, during a meet and greet.

BROOKSVILLE — They're willing to give more.

That's the message a divided Hernando County School Board sent its negotiating team Tuesday during a sometimes tense meeting called to hash out the unresolved details of incoming superintendent Lori Romano's contract.

The biggest point of contention: Romano's salary.

During a face-to-face meeting last month, the district offered Romano, 41, a package that included a $115,000 annual salary, an amount that fell in middle of the advertised salary range for the position.

It was also up from district's initial offer of $101,000.

Romano, the current director of adult, community, secondary and virtual education programs in Martin County, asked for $125,000, dropping down from her initial request of a $130,000.

Board chairman Matt Foreman, who led the district's negotiations, said the total compensation package amounted to about $150,000. He said he was unwilling to go any higher without getting further direction from the board.

"That's my comfort level," Foreman said at Tuesday's meeting.

Board member Cynthia Moore also indicated she didn't want to go higher, saying it would hurt students. She said the additional $10,000 Romano is requesting would make a difference at schools that continue to face cuts.

"I am not real comfortable," she said. "I think the salary is too much. She does not even meet the qualifications for a principal in Hernando County."

Board member Dianne Bonfield quickly disagreed.

"She meets the qualifications of superintendent," she said.

Bonfield said she supported going a bit higher on the salary offer.

"I would be comfortable with a little bit less or a little bit more," she said.

In retrospect, Bonfield said the salary range for the position was very low.

School Board members Gus Guadagnino and John Sweeney also said they were comfortable increasing the salary.

The divided board is not a big surprise.

In March, the board voted 3-2 to enter contract negotiations with Romano.

Foreman and Moore voted against Romano, supporting assistant superintendent Ken Pritz.

During Tuesday's meeting, the board also addressed two other sticking points in the current contract negotiations.

Romano and her lawyer are pushing for contract language that would require a supermajority of board members — four of five — to vote to terminate the contract with cause. Previous contracts have only required a majority.

"That bothers me tremendously," said Moore.

Bonfield disagreed, saying she didn't think it was an outrageous request.

"If I was coming to Hernando County, I think I would ask for a supermajority in my termination," she said.

The final sticking point: The board's initial contract offer included a stipulation that, if Romano was terminated for cause, she would need to pay up to $25,000 for the district conduct a superintendent search.

Romano's contract deletes that item.

A majority of board members indicated they would be okay with those changes.

Sweeney said Romano's requests were within normal parameters.

"Nothing is an outlier," he said.

Danny Valentine can be reached at dvalentine@tampabay.com or (352) 848-1432. On Twitter: @HernandoTimes.

Hernando County School Board willing to offer incoming chief more money 05/07/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 7, 2013 6:58pm]
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