Monday, February 19, 2018
Education

Hernando schools, new superintendent reach contract agreement

BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County School Board and its next superintendent, Lori Romano, reached a tentative contract agreement on Monday following weeks of negotiation.

"It's nice to get it done," said board chairman Matt Foreman, who was part of the district's negotiating team. "I'm looking forward to working with Dr. Romano and to continue to make sure our school district is well taken care of."

Romano, 41, said she is excited about her new job.

"I just can't wait to get started," she said. "I'm really looking forward to the opportunity."

Romano, currently the director of adult, community, secondary and virtual education programs in Martin County, will make $117,000 in the first year and $120,000 in the second year, said Foreman. The salary in the third year is subject to negotiations.

The district initially offered Romano a salary of $101,000 — an amount that fell near the bottom of the advertised salary range of $100,000 to $130,000. Romano and her lawyer countered with a request for $130,000.

Negotiations between the two sides reached a sticking point over the salary and contract language, forcing the board to hold a special meeting last week. At the meeting, a majority of board members said they would accept offering Romano more money.

Romano was also holding out for contract language that would have required a supermajority — four out of five board members — to vote to fire her.

That item will not be in the contract, Foreman said. It will take a majority — three of five — to end the contract.

He said that agreeing to the supermajority language would have set an undesirable precedent.

Romano's contract also includes a provision that, if terminated in the first two years, she will need to pay up to $25,000 for the district to conduct a new superintendent search.

"It's a good insurance policy for the district in the unlikely event something doesn't work out as planned," Foreman said.

The overall value of the contract is about $150,000, Foreman said.

Romano's contract calls for her to begin work on July 1. She will get started earlier than that.

Using built-up vacation days from her current job, she said, she will make herself available the last three weeks in June, holding meetings and learning about the district and the community. She also will need to move to Hernando.

She said she hasn't yet found a home.

Retiring superintendent Bryan Blavatt was pleased the two sides came to an agreement.

"It's great," he said. "I think that the more time you have in advance to work with the superintendent and to prepare, the more seamless the transition will be."

Although the board has reached a verbal agreement with Romano, the contract has not yet been signed. Romano will have to sign the contract, then it will need to be ratified by the School Board, which is expected to do so at its next meeting.

"I don't see any problem with the ratification," Romano said.

Overall, she said the process has been "professional and fair and businesslike."

Romano's husband, also an educator, is applying for positions in surrounding districts. Romano's contract includes a clause preventing him from working for the district.

Danny Valentine can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1432. On Twitter: @HernandoTimes.

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