BROOKSVILLE — One by one or in groups, every principal in Hernando County had a chat with the boss on Thursday.
When they came out, the cell phones flipped open to spread the news about the broadest shakeup seen for years in the 23,000-student district.
Around a third of all Hernando principals will likely find themselves in new schools next fall, as part of a top-to-bottom reorganization superintendent Wayne Alexander has been planning since his arrival eight months ago.
And unlike the structural changes he's planning for the central office, these school-level changes require no School Board approval. It's his call.
"Some people wanted to move," Alexander said Friday. "Some people have been in places and that growth hasn't been there. Some people haven't done a good job."
But whether the change is due to preference or performance, it's clear some of the district's 21 schools will see big changes if Alexander's tentative plans hold, according to documents obtained by the St. Petersburg Times.
At Hernando High, which earned three consecutive "D" grades from the state, the entire leadership team would be split up and moved to new schools. West Hernando Middle, which earned two recent "A" grades but ran afoul of the federal government's system for measuring special-needs students, would also get a brand-new team. And Eastside Elementary would get its fourth principal in four years.
Taking over at Hernando would be facilities director Ken Pritz, a former principal, and three assistants: Jill Renihan from West Hernando; former Hernando High athletic director Brent Gaustad; and recently retired curriculum specialist Mary Krabel.
Current Hernando principal Betty Harper would take the reins at Deltona Elementary, while that school's principal, Beverly Chapin, would move to Eastside. And rookie principal Toni-Ann Noyes, who has spent most of her career in secondary education, would shift to West Hernando.
At the central office level, J.D. Floyd Elementary principal Marcia Austin would take a newly created central office job as mathematics curriculum specialist. Barbara Kidder, director of labor relations and professional standards, has been penciled in as supervisor of professional development, one of Alexander's top priorities.
Other personnel who found their positions eliminated last week, like Moton Elementary assistant principal Virginia Maxwell, have been invited to apply for new administrative openings at the central office or school levels.
Alexander said he won't make those or other personnel switches until the board approves his broader changes, which include the elimination of a few executive-level jobs and the creation of others.
But he said the shakeup — plus the creation of new, mid-range curriculum positions — should provide a healthy jolt to a school system that has failed to serve all its children effectively. It will also save nearly $400,000 per year, largely by replacing high-paying positions with those at lower seniority levels.
"There's a point when you reach stagnation, and if you don't realize it, at some point your supervisor has to say so," Alexander said.
That message came through loud and clear as principals filed out of their meetings at the central office.
"I know there were some shocked looks when people were coming out," said Joe Clifford, principal at West Hernando. He said he's excited about his move to J.D. Floyd Elementary, where he worked as a guidance counselor earlier in his career.
"I'll just come in and do my thing," Clifford said. "We go where we're told to go, and we do what we're told to do."
But the changes are unnerving for many in the district, which hasn't seen the kind of abrupt job-swapping that's common in other Florida districts. Some teachers have learned they'll also be moving next fall, due to enrollment shifts and the opening of the new Explorer K-8 school in Spring Hill.
And those days of teachers and administrators accustomed to starting and finishing their careers in one place? "Those days are gone," Joe Vitalo, president of the Hernando Classroom Teachers Union, said Friday.
He said the reorganization plans seem sensible, but predicted they'd cause some short-term angst just the same.
On Thursday, Clifford told his faculty to welcome the new administrative team at West Hernando with open arms, and remember what made their school excel in the first place.
"Embrace these folks who are coming in, because they are as nervous and uncomfortable as you are," he recalled telling them. "We're all in this together and we'll be okay. We'll get through this time."
Tom Marshall can be reached at email@example.com or (352) 848-1431.