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Hernando school chief named semifinalist for Massachusetts job

BROOKSVILLE — Less than two years after landing a new leader, the Hernando County School Board may soon need to search for another one.

Superintendent Wayne Alexander has told the board that family circumstances have forced him to seek a new job in New England.

Already he has been named one of four semifinalists to lead the 8,000-student Framingham Public Schools in suburban Boston. Officials plan to interview candidates on Jan. 10, administrative assistant Ann Greenberg said.

In a letter to the board, Alexander insisted he wants to remain right where he is.

"My wife and I want to raise our children in Hernando County," he wrote. "I am very proud of our schools and community. It is a great place to raise kids."

But Alexander said he and his new wife have become entangled in a battle with her former husband over visitation rights with the two children from her previous marriage. The applications to lead a school district in the Northeast are part of that legal effort, he said.

"Our argument is that my position is highly specialized, and obtaining a position that is of equal importance in Connecticut is not possible," he wrote. "If offered a position in the area, we will again revisit the courts to argue that nothing compares to my current position or to my current community and all that it has to offer our family."

Alexander did not respond Monday to several phone calls seeking comment on his plans.

But board members said they sympathized with his plight.

"The judge told him he had to look for a job closer to where his wife's ex-husband lived," said member Sandra Nicholson. "I know he doesn't want to move back North."

But it's not clear how a judge might evaluate Alexander's argument that similar jobs aren't available there.

Unlike Florida, school districts in New England are typically organized by towns rather than counties. With the exception of urban districts, they tend to enroll fewer students than the 23,000 who attend the Hernando County schools.

But they often pay more. In Framingham, Alexander would earn an advertised salary of $190,000 to $215,000, a healthy increase from his current $125,545.

If Alexander were forced to leave, the Hernando School Board would be in a tough position. Superintendent searches take months, and districts compete to sign the best candidates by early spring.

So the district might be forced to name an interim superintendent if Alexander withdraws too late in the school year to launch a proper search, said board member James Yant.

"You really can't do anything until he resigns," he said. "When he says he's going to leave, then we could legitimately start searching."

Alexander was a rookie superintendent in the summer of 2007, when he took the top job in Hernando. Before that, he had been director of human resources and school operations in New London, Conn., where he grew up.

He got off to a fast start, launching a major reorganization in Hernando, shuffling principals and refocusing job responsibilities in the central office. He said he was committed to reducing the high school dropout rate and finding new ways for teenagers to find relevance and career possibilities in their schoolwork.

But Alexander also ruffled some feathers, with all three candidates for an open School Board position saying that he needed to moderate a sometimes harsh manner with subordinates.

Now he's preparing for state funding cuts and the unwelcome possibility of layoffs.

Chairwoman Dianne Bonfield said she's hopeful Alexander can remain on the job to help the district through tough budget times, and to finish what he started.

"Right now, he's our employee, and I can assure you he's working as diligently as he ever has for Hernando County," she said. "If there was anything he could do to stay, I think he would."

Tom Marshall can be reached at tmarshall@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1431.

Hernando school chief named semifinalist for Massachusetts job 12/22/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 31, 2008 2:11pm]
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