BROOKSVILLE — You can't transform a school district overnight, and you can't bring a lower-than-average salary up to snuff in a single year, either.
Those are among the lessons superintendent Wayne Alexander has learned during his first year in Hernando County, he told the School Board on Tuesday. He acknowledged that he may have alienated some members of the staff and community by his demeanor and the pace of the changes.
"I feel I have met, and in some ways exceeded, your expectations," he said. "(But) my goals for next year will include slowing down."
A majority of the board agreed in principle to Alexander's most recent proposal for a 5.5 percent salary increase to around $125,000, plus a one-year extension of his contract. The board must still ratify those changes with a formal vote.
That was a far cry from Alexander's first proposal, a 14 percent increase that he later described as a negotiating position.
Alexander acknowledged the intensity of the public outcry over that initial request, which comes amid tumbling state tax revenues and fears of county layoffs.
While some critics might be upset by his decision to rapidly reorganize the district's administration, he said, he now recognizes that his results-oriented manner has ruffled more than a few feathers.
"The line between confidence and arrogance is a fine one," Alexander added. "I will monitor it more closely."
Board members were unanimous in their support for his leadership since August, when he arrived in the district from Connecticut.
In addition to shuffling roles at central office and cutting some $400,000 in administrative salaries, he has moved a third of all principals in the 23,000-student district and launched overhauls of curriculum and technology.
But there was less agreement over the wisdom of granting him a salary increase for next year, before negotiations have been concluded for teacher or administrator salaries.
"There's a lot of pain going around," said board member Jim Malcolm, warning of the possibility that teachers could see little or no salary increase next year. "I will not support a pay increase at this time."
The four other members said the 5.5 percent increase, which teachers received for the current year, was reasonable. Members John Sweeney, Dianne Bonfield and chairwoman Sandra Nicholson also supported an increase in the superintendent's travel allowance from $500 to $600, while Malcolm and Fagan opposed it.
Sweeney warned that the district might have a hard time retaining Alexander or attracting a worthy successor if it continued to pay lower-than-average wages to its leader.
"Bringing you up to average would not affect money for teachers," he added. "It's a mere drop in the bucket."
Fagan said he supported all the changes Alexander has launched, but urged him to spend more time cultivating the teachers and administrators who must carry them out.
"Change is a good thing," he said. "I just want to say please, please work with your people so we can have some buy-in and have a successful year."
Tom Marshall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1431.