Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Education

Hernando school superintendent weakened by way assistant was demoted

If you work in a school system and go from leading the division of teaching and learning to running the warehouse, it's not a promotion.

If you get a memo that says "your actions have been counterproductive to the current direction of the school district," you can be sure you aren't in for a lateral career move.

If that same memo says you will be "housed at" a certain building rather than "based out of" it or "working from" it, the point of the coming transfer is not to diversify your resume; "housed" is a word for criminals and conscripts.

Does it matter that Ken Pritz kept his salary and his title as assistant superintendent when Hernando schools superintendent Lori Romano abruptly reassigned him last week? Yes, a little. But it matters more that he was forced to take a job of lesser importance that he didn't want.

That's what made this a demotion. And when Romano insisted that it wasn't, she came off looking, I hate to say it, a little less than honest.

There's another memo to talk about, another shadow on Romano's credibility.

This was the letter to district employees from Pritz but, as it turns out, not from Pritz.

Romano acknowledged that she wrote it, which means she not only falsified his name at the top, the one identifying him as the author, but his feelings about his new job: "I am excited about this opportunity . . . "

Romano also said that this memo wasn't totally her own work, that Pritz's secretary helped her put it together — shifting part of the blame onto someone who surely couldn't have added so much as a comma without Romano's approval.

It's not fair to the secretary, and none of this is fair to Pritz.

I'm not talking about the reassignment itself, because those of us outside the district have no way of knowing whether that was justified or not.

Was Pritz unprepared to help make Hernando, as Romano expects, a perennial A district? Is some of the technology needed to make this progress, as Romano said in an interview, "a very foreign concept to (Pritz)"?

I don't know that, either. I just know he deserved better. He deserved a written warning and, if his performance truly was deficient, a chance to correct it. He deserved the time to send his own message to his co-workers, or at least the right not to send one at all.

Pritz has worked in the district for more than 33 years, doing a number of jobs (including, as Romano said, one very similar to his new assignment) and doing them well enough to be considered for superintendent three times. The dignity he showed when he was passed over earned him a lot of respect. So did pulling Hernando High School out of its deepest trough in memory, bringing its state grade from a D to a B.

A superintendent spends political capital demoting someone this well regarded and well liked. By doing it the way she did it, Romano squandered a whole lot more.

I worry about this, especially if it's a sign of Romano's style and of things to come, because she's otherwise shown herself to be smart, sophisticated and ambitious. She's shown more promise to do good things in this district than any superintendent in memory, and I worry that moves like this one might stop her short of her goals.

Because there's no doubt about it: Ken Pritz is in a less powerful position than he was a week ago. And so is Romano.

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