BROOKSVILLE — Without public discussion or a formal vote, Hernando County School District superintendent Lori Romano recently directed all middle and high schools to reduce their instructional schedules to six periods a day for the 2014-15 school year.
That decision didn't sit well with School Board member John Sweeney.
During a workshop Tuesday, Sweeney let the superintendent and district staff know his feelings about making the switch without board approval and pledged to seek an outside opinion regarding the appropriateness of the action.
"When we deal with an issue that's broad and sweeping, I believe it's within our responsibility and authority to actually vote on it as a board," Sweeney said during the meeting. "I think we should have a direct say in it."
Later, he added: "I want to make sure that we're doing what we are charged to do."
School Board attorney Dennis Alfonso said the district does not have a policy dealing with how many class periods should be offered, and historically the board has left the issue up to the superintendent.
"There didn't seem to be a clear directive by policy or otherwise specifying what Dr. Romano should look to for guidance on this topic," Alfonso said.
Wayne Blanton, executive director of the Florida School Boards Association, told the Tampa Bay Times on Wednesday that such a major change typically would go before the School Board for a full discussion, public input and a vote.
"I understand what the superintendent's responsibilities are, but you've got five elected School Board members that need to answer (to their constituents)," Blanton said. "It has ramifications on a number of different things."
The move to six-period days was made to provide greater instructional time in core subjects, create more equity among schools and to better comply with state statutes, according to the district staff. It also may come with cost savings, though an exact figure was unclear. Currently, schools are offering between six to eight periods.
Romano has said the changes are necessary, given the district's current "C" grade from the state.
On the flip side, six-period days will reduce the number of electives students can take and could provide fewer opportunities to take credit-recovery classes during school hours.
Sweeney worried about the impact on students, noting that he has received calls from students about certain electives that will no longer be offered. He said there will be more conflict for students seeking to participate in such programs as allied health and ROTC.
"Incompatible," he said.
"I don't think reducing the exposure is the way to go," Sweeney said. "That's an intangible that we'll never be able to replace."
Sweeney did not get support from other board members.
Member Matt Foreman said he believed the decision was the superintendent's to make.
Chairman Gus Guadagnino said he doesn't take the changes lightly, but ultimately said it was Romano's call.
"In my eyes, that's micromanagement (by the board)," he said.
Sweeney promptly disagreed: "I think we were elected to do a job and this is one of the jobs we were elected to do."
Romano said she was hired to run the district.
"Never before in this district has the board voted on scheduling types," she said.
Danny Valentine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1432. Follow @HernandoTimes on Twitter.