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Hernando superintendent again seeks to reorganize district

BROOKSVILLE — As the start of his third and final year as chief of the Hernando County schools approaches, Bryan Blavatt is preparing one more time to restructure the district office.

As reported last month, Blavatt will ask the School Board at a workshop Tuesday to approve a reorganization plan that includes a second assistant superintendent. Details of the plan were released this week.

It will be the fourth time in two years that Blavatt has tried to revise the district office organizational chart, and the third time he has attempted to get a second assistant superintendent. Each time previously, a majority of board members said no.

The issue has proven to be one of the biggest sources of friction between the board and its chief executive, prompting Blavatt at one point to question whether he was the right person for the job.

"If there wasn't a compelling need to do it now, I wouldn't have brought it up again," he said this week. "It would be a lot easier for me as superintendent to just let it ride. But I firmly believe the changes are needed, and that's why I keep on pushing the issue."

In this latest version, one assistant would oversee a division of teaching and learning that includes the schools and principals, instructional services, the technology and Hernando Instructional Television department, and adult and community education.

The other assistant would lead a division of student support services to include exceptional student education, transportation, facilities, maintenance, and safety and security.

The superintendent would oversee a department of school improvement to include federal programs, professional development and school assessment. Putting these critical areas under the superintendent's supervision is a key component of the plan in an era of data-driven accountability, Blavatt said.

The primary goal of the new chart, as with his past attempts, is to "flatten" the organization and divvy up some of many duties currently handled by assistant superintendent Sonya Jackson.

The second assistant would be paid about $96,000 and cost the district an additional $26,000 for benefits. The overall plan, though, would save nearly $24,000, according to Blavatt, in part by eliminating two vacant positions — a maintenance personnel specialist and a purchasing assistant.

The rest of the savings would be a result of paying lower salaries to new hires who will replace veteran employees retiring from three positions: transportation director, Weeki Wachee High School principal and Weeki Wachee's assistant principal.

Even with the savings, Blavatt acknowledged the inevitable criticism that will come from those who wonder how the district can justify adding a six-figure position.

"Those people obviously aren't aware that we are the leanest district office in the state," he said. "Districts our size have two assistant superintendents."

But there is another critical factor, Blavatt has said: The second position would provide another incubator for talent and a possible launching pad for the next superintendent. Board members told Blavatt when they hired him that they wanted him to focus on grooming future leaders. The best way to do that, he said, is to get talented staffers in leadership positions.

Blavatt has declined to cite names of potential leaders or whom he would like to see in the other assistant's position. If the reorganization plan is approved, internal candidates would apply.

Blavatt has said that he doesn't plan to ask for a contract extension. His last day will be June 30, 2013.

If he fails this time with a reorganization plan, he won't try again.

"If the board does not approve of this, then that certainly sends a message that they want to keep things status quo, and I'll certainly do what they ask," he said.

The dynamic will be different this time. During the previous three attempts, the board had just four members. In September, Gov. Rick Scott appointed Matt Foreman to finish the term of board member Pat Fagan, who had resigned six months earlier.

Foreman has proven to be a close minder of the purse strings, but also has advocated a hands-off approach when it comes to the CEO.

Board Chairwoman Cynthia Moore said she hadn't studied Blavatt's plan, but indicated she agrees philosophically with the need to restructure the district office.

"Maybe the fourth time's the charm," Moore said. "I'm very open-minded."

Tony Marrero can be reached at (352) 848-1431 or tmarrero@tampabay.com.

Hernando superintendent again seeks to reorganize district 04/13/12 [Last modified: Friday, April 13, 2012 8:17pm]
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