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Hernando school chief's quiet job hunt could violate contract

BROOKSVILLE — Did superintendent Wayne Alexander violate his contract by failing to notify School Board members when he launched his job search?

At least one person who was serving on the Hernando County School Board last fall said so Tuesday, as the district waited for word on whether their superintendent was a finalist for a new job in Massachusetts.

"I can tell you that I was in no way informed as to his applying for, or showing interest in a job anywhere, the whole time I was on the board," said member Jim Malcolm, who resigned Nov. 17 after 16 years on the board. "It sounds to me like technically he's in breach of his contract."

At issue is a provision in Alexander's contract that requires him to notify board members in writing "of any efforts to seek other employment."

The contract says those efforts include sending out resumes or letters of interest. Under its terms, a failure to notify board members of a job hunt constitutes a breach, and the board can terminate Alexander's contract without paying a dime in severance.

News of Alexander's job hunt broke on Dec. 22 after board members acknowledged receiving an undated letter from the superintendent. In it, he said he was being forced to seek work in New England due to a visitation dispute involving his new wife's children in Connecticut.

Three days earlier, on Dec. 19, the Framingham district announced that Alexander was one of four semifinalists to lead the 8,000-student district.

What's not clear is when Alexander notified the board. At least one current member says he received the letter just before Alexander was named as a candidate in Framingham.

"He called me and said it was something he wanted to discuss," said James Yant, who was elected to the board on Nov. 4. "It was probably Thursday the 18th of December, could have been the 17th.

"It would have to have been one of those dates," he added. "I brought the letter home, and the next week the teachers were out of school (for the winter break.)"

According to literature published by the Framingham district, applications for their superintendent search were due Nov. 6.

Malcolm, Yant's predecessor in that School Board seat, said Alexander never breathed a word to him about leaving Hernando during his time on the board.

"My commission ended on Nov. 17," he said. "If he got an application in before Nov. 6, I'm still a sitting School Board member. He never told me, and I would assume that he's in breach of contract. It is obvious to me he is playing both sides against the middle, trying to protect his own interests."

Other board members didn't have a clear memory on when they received the letter.

Pat Fagan initially said he received the letter on Dec. 18 or 19, but later said it was possible he received it in late November. Member John Sweeney could not be reached for comment.

Dianne Bonfield and Sandra Nicholson both said Alexander told them verbally of his search earlier in the fall. But neither could say exactly when they received the letter.

"I would think it was before Thanksgiving, I'm not positive," Nicholson said. "I didn't make note of when I got it. (But) I don't have a problem with the way it was handled."

Nor did Alexander have any record of when he sent the letter notifying the board of his search.

"I don't really recall when I sent that," he said. "I think it was much earlier in the process. Because that's part of my contract."

He declined to say whether he has applied to lead other districts.

Asked whether he intends to finish his Hernando contract, which ends in the spring of 2010, he would say only that he continues to work hard for the district.

"I have every intention to work and move our district forward and do what's best for kids," Alexander said.

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

THIS JUST IN

Framingham passes on Alexander

Hernando schools superintendent Wayne Alexander was eliminated from consideration Tuesday night in the search to lead the Framingham (Mass.) Public Schools, according to the MetroWest Daily News.

The Framingham board voted to advance three other candidates to the final round, the paper reported.

For the latest, go to blogs.tampabay.com/breakingnews

What Alexander's contract says:

"Alexander shall notify the board in writing of any efforts to seek other employment. 'Efforts to seek other employment' include interviewing, submitting a resume, application or letters of interest for another position of employment. Failure to comply with this obligation shall constitute a breach of this agreement by Alexander. In the event of such breach, the board shall be entitled to unilaterally terminate this agreement based upon such breach and no severance payments will be due Alexander."

Hernando school chief's quiet job hunt could violate contract 01/13/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 13, 2009 9:18pm]
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