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Hernando schools superintendent Wayne Alexander interviews in Westerly, R.I.

BROOKSVILLE — Hernando schools superintendent Wayne Alexander may be the leading candidate for a similar job in Westerly, R.I. Or he may have been outclassed by another hopeful.

Either way, the public likely won't know until the district announces its choice. Unlike in Florida, the interviews have been conducted away from the public's view.

Alexander had his nearly hour long closed-door session with the School Board of the coastal New England community on Wednesday night. Alexander did not return a call for comment on Thursday.

Later Wednesday, the board went back into executive session to discuss whether one or both of the finalists warrant the next step in the process: a background check and a close look at the candidate's district. That could include a visit to the district.

The board's next formal announcement is likely to be which candidate has been chosen, according to Chairman James Murano Jr.

The board is expected to meet in another executive session Wednesday and could make an announcement after that meeting. The goal, board members have said, is to make their selection public by June 3.

"That (secrecy) couldn't fly in Florida," said Adria Harper, executive director of the First Amendment Foundation in Tallahassee.

The Westerly district's closed-door search and selection process stands in stark contrast to those in Florida, where stricter laws give elected boards a lot less leeway to meet in executive session, Harper said.

Some states allow elected officials to meet behind closed doors to discuss personnel matters. But, in the case of a superintendent search, "You wonder what the rationale would be for making that closed," Harper said.

The Westerly board followed the same process for a superintendent search a few years ago, but the local press reported the pick before it was officially announced.

Also in the running for the Westerly post is Steven Welford, the superintendent in Burrillville, R.I., a school district about 20 miles from Providence with about 2,500 students. Welford had his interview earlier this month.

Alexander is also one of five finalists for the superintendent's post in Brockton, Mass. His interview there earlier this month was open to the public. That district recently added two more finalists, and Brockton School Board member Richard Bath said Thursday the selection will be made by end of next month.

Alexander had said he planned to stay in Hernando and move his new family here. But he maintains that a child visitation dispute between his wife and her ex-husband has forced him to change those plans and look for jobs in New England.

He has angered two Hernando School Board members who say he has been less than up front about his job search. Pat Fagan and James Yant also say it's time to cut ties with Alexander now rather than have him finish his contract that ends in June, 2010.

The Westerly school district is comprised of seven schools — five elementary schools, a middle school and a high school — and about 3,400 students. The salary range for the job is $115,000 to $137,000.

Times correspondent Emily Dupuis contributed to this report. Tony Marrero can be reached at tmarrero@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1431.

Hernando schools superintendent Wayne Alexander interviews in Westerly, R.I. 05/21/09 [Last modified: Thursday, May 21, 2009 7:17pm]
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