Hernando School Board, fire Wayne Alexander — you won't regret it

The three School Board members who opposed firing superintendent Wayne Alexander on Tuesday seem to be about the only people who can't see he needs to go.

Alexander has alienated teachers, parents and two of the five School Board members, James Yant and Pat Fagan.

He may have breached his contract by looking for a job last fall without properly notifying his bosses; he almost certainly did this spring when he sought the superintendent's job in Brockton, Mass. This, of course, came after he promised in February to stay in Hernando until his contract expires in June 2010.

Get rid of him. And, please, don't waste tax money on a severance package.

This is all so clear that, the mystifying support of board members Dianne Bonfield, John Sweeney and Sandra Nicholson notwithstanding, there may not be much point in debating it further.

The only real question is whether his departure, whenever it happens, will be a loss for the county.

At one time, a lot of people in the schools would have said absolutely yes, that his guts outweighed his arrogance, that his passion to improve education justified the feelings he hurt.

Remember those principals he demoted or moved last year? Some of them deserved to go. There's little doubt, for example, that Hernando High is much improved this year under new principal Ken Pritz.

When Alexander recently met with editors and reporters at the Times, he was questioned about the teachers' raise he advocated last year despite looming budget cuts. Education is all about teachers, he said, and this was a chance to attract and retain the best.

That impressed me at the time, and leaves me all the more puzzled now.

If instructional firepower is the backbone of the district, why was he so quick to recommend cutting 200 teachers and support staffers? Remember, the district already eliminated 80 teachers for poor performance; these new cuts would not necessarily be bad teachers, just nontenured ones picked by their principals.

Alexander didn't pass this staffing plan alone, of course. In a February meeting, board members facing a $16 million budget hole gave tepid support to the cuts. And, when he returned with his plan last month, they voted for it.

But he pushed this plan, it seems, with too little consideration of other money-saving ideas, of which there are many: pay freezes, reducing bus routes, cutting social workers or other nonclassroom staffers, and yes, though I'd hate to see them go, nonessential programs such as middle school sports.

Even before the board voted Tuesday to rescind the job cuts, it might have had a chance to consider these ideas and save jobs. But if Alexander expected that to happen, he never told the public. Nor did he sit down with teachers and explain why so many of their colleagues had to go.

This action was reminiscent of when he asked for a 15 percent pay increase for himself (later reduced) and sat on a petition from principals who had agreed to a pay freeze. All were displays of arrogance and insensitivity, not bravery.

So why bring it up now, when the board has just decided to keep Alexander? Because if they are asked again, as I hope they are, they should know the county will be fine without him.

Hernando School Board, fire Wayne Alexander — you won't regret it 04/23/09 [Last modified: Thursday, April 23, 2009 6:03pm]

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