BROOKSVILLE — The annual shifting of school principals is under way.
Superintendent Bryan Blavatt on Wednesday confirmed a host of reassignments that have become open secrets in recent days. He declined to release a comprehensive list because he had yet to meet with all of the principals and assistant principals affected.
Among those confirmed: Deltona Elementary principal Betty Harper is moving to an assistant principal's post at West Hernando. Debi Vermette, principal at Moton Elementary, is taking Harper's post.
Blavatt said stagnant student performance at Deltona prompted the move. "I'm not really pleased with the progress," he said.
Harper was principal at Hernando High when then-superintendent Wayne Alexander moved her to Deltona in 2008. Both Deltona and Moton are exceptional education centers, and Vermette has a proven track record in that area, Blavatt said.
"She's had real success at Moton bringing up test scores and working with special needs," he said. "It's a case of situational leadership and having the right person in the right place."
He said the move was not related to the recent controversy at Deltona surrounding a paraprofessional who was kicked in the groin by a student.
The paraprofessional, Tedd Weiser, lodged a complaint with the district after the incident saying that Harper failed to notify law enforcement officials of the incident.
Blavatt agreed, writing a reprimand letter to Harper for failing to follow policy. Harper disputed Blavatt's findings, writing in a reply that she investigated the incident and didn't find grounds to contact authorities.
Updated salary info wasn't available, but Blavatt acknowledged that Harper would likely be taking a pay cut.
Why not shift her to another principal job?
"There were not any positions available that we felt would be an appropriate fit," he said.
Harper did not return a message Thursday.
West Hernando principal Rick Markford worked with Harper at Central High School, where they were both assistant principals. "She's a professional, and we already have a well-established working relationship," Markford said.
Vermette said she was surprised by Blavatt's request and sad about leaving Moton, but was excited about the new challenge to help Deltona succeed.
"I'm real big into a positive school climate and becoming a family and making it work," she said.
She said Moton is in good hands with Mark Griffith, her former second in command, who is now acting principal. That will give Griffith the chance to show his leadership skills in a bid to keep the job, Blavatt said.
That's what just happened at Powell Middle: Blavatt said Jamie Young will keep the Powell principal seat she took on an acting basis two months ago after principal Dave Dannemiller was tapped for the top job at the new Winding Waters K-8.
Ecstatic is a good word to describe her mood, Young said.
"We're doing a lot of great things here," she said. "Being an assistant principal at a school for three years and then moving into the principal position, you can really continue to go full speed ahead."
Some other noteworthy administrator developments Blavatt confirmed:
• Eastside Elementary is eliminating its lone assistant principal position.
The fate of Dominick Ferello, who moved to that spot from the principal job at Westside Elementary last year amid complaints from staff about his management style, is unclear. Blavatt declined to comment but said Ferello is on medical leave.
• Rob Dill, who just finished his first year leading the Quest Academy for the Gifted at Challenger K-8 in Spring Hill, is headed to the Endeavor Academy in Brooksville.
Formerly the STAR Education Center for alternative students, Endeavor will still serve that population with a new focus on computer-assisted learning. Dill, who was officially an assistant principal at Challenger, is a good fit for Endeavor because of his experience in alternative education, Blavatt said.
• Dianne Azzarelli, assistant principal at West Hernando Middle, will take over at Quest. Azzarelli recently earned an endorsement from the state for gifted education.
• Debra Harris, STAR's principal, will now serve as administrator for the district's new eSchool franchise. Harris had been juggling her STAR duties with the effort to get the virtual school.
• Royce Green, assistant principal at Fox Chapel Middle, has asked for a transfer now that the school plans to cut the position to save money. Blavatt wouldn't comment on where Green might be headed.
• Chocachatti Elementary does not plan to replace retiring assistant principal Carol Ellis — also a move to save money.
All administrative assignments are subject to School Board approval, though it's rare for the board to object to the superintendent's personnel decisions.
But at least one board member has already voiced concerns about some schools going without an assistant principal. The deputy position is needed to keep schools running smoothly and safely when principals are away, board member Dianne Bonfield said in a workshop Tuesday.
The school principals have proposed the cuts in response to Blavatt's request to cut 10 percent from their staffing budgets.
Chocachatti principal Maria Rybka said she was comfortable that her leadership team would be able to provide support when she is gone for short periods of time. For the rare longer absences, administrators from other schools are willing to fill in, Rybka said.
It was the right decision to keep the school's fine arts and microsociety magnet programs strong, she said.
Otherwise, "I would have to cut two other teachers and what we offered to students would have been at risk."
Tony Marrero can be reached at (352) 848-1431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.