BROOKSVILLE — It was supposed to be the meeting in which the Hernando County School Board would consider allowing its superintendent to leave the district a year early.
But a week after announcing his intention to resign this summer because of family troubles up North, Wayne Alexander brought the board a surprising message Tuesday: Never mind.
"As a result of many discussions with family members, friends and employees, I am withdrawing my request to leave at the end of this school year," he said, reading from a prepared statement.
"Last week's request of the board was an emotional response to family needs that have been building for six months," Alexander explained. "It was an attempt to meet the district's needs and my family's needs. I am learning, personally and professionally, as I go."
His previous announcement — that he'd leave the district in July because of a visitation dispute involving his new wife and her children in Connecticut — threw the board into turmoil. Members had been planning to launch a search for his replacement this week.
Nothing in his personal circumstances has changed. But Alexander said he concluded that he would rather be a commuting father next year than break his three-year contract.
"The reality is, we live in a world that has contracts, professional commitments," he added. "I need to honor (my contract) and commitment."
Board members said they'd been told of his latest decision individually before the meeting.
Even so, several members took the opportunity to clear the air.
"I want a verbal commitment from you, that you will commit to this organization," said Pat Fagan.
"I have no problem with you sticking with the organization, but we need buy-in," he added, expressing regret over the alienation of some teachers and staff due to the rapid pace of Alexander's staff reorganization last year. "Get them back on our side, so we can proceed on making great changes."
James Yant said many in the district have been left afraid and uncertain, both by the changes and Alexander's forceful management style.
"You can have a team where all the players are frightened of the coach, or you can have a team that loves playing for that coach," he said. "We need everybody to be a part of this team."
Other members said Alexander's efforts since his 2007 hiring, as well as his brash manner, were just what a change-resistant district needed.
"He ruffled some feathers," said Sandra Nicholson. "Did those feathers need to be ruffled? (In) my opinion, yes."
Alexander said he'd likely be looking for work in New England once his contract expires in June 2010, and board members said they'd begin an orderly search for his replacement next year.
If another job comes up in Connecticut before then, Alexander said, he won't take it.
"I'm committed to honoring my contract," he added.
With that, the board shifted gears to the mammoth task of cutting its $160 million operating budget down to size. State cutbacks may force the district to slash up to $30 million in spending in the coming year, Alexander said, and next week the board will begin to set its spending priorities.
Board members agreed they would also consider boosting the salary range for the vacant finance director position in order to attract qualified candidates.
For all of those tasks, Alexander said he'll be the man in charge.
"You want to finish some of the things you started," he said. "And get some closure."
Tom Marshall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1431.