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Hernando School Board, superintendent Bryan Blavatt can learn from recent run-ins

Bryan Blavatt may be the most experienced and knowledgeable school superintendent Hernando County has ever had.

We've seen far too much turnover in that job over the years, and even more in the revolving door known as the county administrator's office.

It's taught us that stability itself is a worthy goal, and that, on the flip side, instability is bad — that a change in government leadership almost always means at least a short step back.

That's even more true now, in this dire economy, when one of the superintendent's biggest jobs is recommending cuts. To do this wisely, you have to know the district. To know the district, you have to stick around awhile.

This is all to concede one point — that we don't want to lose Blavatt. Those of us who remember his predecessor in fact might even feel like grabbing his ankles and begging him to stay. (I did say change is almost always a setback.)

While we're at it, we might as well concede another point — that there seems to be a good deal of truth in what Blavatt said last week about the School Board, which, in case you missed it, he called "the most dysfunctional, nonproductive, counterproductive group of individuals I've ever seen in 40 years."

This board meddles too much in personnel decisions and tends to backpedal on agreed-upon policies. It doesn't seem to get it that Blavatt's frustration is real and that if this forces him out it will be a real blow to the schools. Remember, he blasted the board last week only after it had rejected his third plan to reorganize the district office.

This board is a bunch, by the way, that clearly misses the statesmanship of former member Pat Fagan, who was basically forced to resign when the County Commission laid him off from his other job, running the county's parks. So this decision, it turns out, was not only bad for the county, but also bad for the schools.

Enough about the commissioners, though, because this is not about them, but about Blavatt and his dispute with the School Board. And let's recognize that it is not all the board's fault.

When Blavatt, who came out of retirement to take this job, reminds them that he really doesn't need the job, as he has several times …

When he tells them they need to let him do the work they hired him to do, which he's done repeatedly …

And especially when he says that if they don't do this, they might as well fire him, which he did last week. …

Well, then, he sounds a little like a basketball star complaining about not getting enough touches or even like a kid who says he's going to take his ball and go home.

Because there's a certain level of immaturity at work here. Blavatt has been known to show his disagreement with board members by rolling his eyes. He says he doesn't have a good poker face and, as refreshing as his honesty is, it would help if he developed a better one.

He also said he doesn't mind the level of openness in Florida government — that it's not much different than in Kentucky and Maryland, where he previously worked. Okay, but he also gives the impression of a leader who isn't used to getting questions, and maybe he has to learn to accept more of them.

Are they always going to be thoughtful and well-informed?

No. Because if it's true that Blavatt was hired with the understanding that the board would give him the freedom to accomplish his goals, it's also true that Blavatt knew he wasn't going to be dealing with a bunch of Henry Clays and Daniel Websters.

School Board membership is more or less an entry-level job in politics, usually filled by people who want to do good, but who may not know how best to go about it. Dealing with that is part of the superintendent's job description.

The board has to work on its relationship with Blavatt, respect that he knows what he's doing and that, in fact, he probably knows best. He, maybe, needs to realize he doesn't know it all.

Hernando School Board, superintendent Bryan Blavatt can learn from recent run-ins 07/05/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 5, 2011 8:32pm]
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