Sunday, February 25, 2018
Education

Hernando superintendent's evaluation turns ugly over one board member's holdout

BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County school superintendent Lori Romano's first formal evaluation by her five bosses on the School Board was a memorable one, quickly becoming an ugly affair that publicly revealed an internal conflict that has been brewing.

While the four evaluations submitted were largely positive, School Board member John Sweeney never turned his in and never had a one-on-one meeting with Romano.

That's an apparent violation of Romano's contract, which states that board members will meet with Romano to discuss their evaluations before the meeting.

Board member Dianne Bonfield took issue with Sweeney, repeatedly calling him out during the board's Tuesday afternoon workshop.

"There's policies and procedures — it has not been followed," Bonfield said. "I don't really think any individual board member has the right to do that. We may not have a boss that is going to come down on our head and say, 'What the heck did you do?' … but we certainly have our own ethics and our own morality that we have to come to a standard for ourselves."

She added: "I think that it is absolutely outrageous when a board member refuses to fill this out. I'm sorry."

Sweeney at first said he did not want to go into the details of why he didn't submit his evaluation, indicating he didn't want to get into an "ugly discussion."

Responding to Bonfield, he said he would accept the consensus of the board "without going into further detail that you are darn well aware of, which was not indicated in your evaluation."

Later, he elaborated, referring to his son and an ongoing investigation into whether some of his son's grades were improperly changed at Springstead High School.

"You are well aware that there's been a request for a (federal) hearing, and you're well aware that there is an ongoing fact-finding investigations that we didn't want to have to bring out at this point," he said.

Romano then entered the fray. She said Sweeney had crossed the line by bringing the case up.

"I think, on the record, this evening it's been stated that, Mr. Sweeney, your role as a parent and a board member has been crossed," she said, noting that he brought up the federal case. "That's your role as a parent. Your role as a board member is one of my five bosses."

Sweeney interrupted and said: "I didn't ask you for you to tell me what my role is."

Romano said that they negotiated a contract requiring that School Board members talk with the superintendent before the workshop discussion. She said she wished that would have happened.

School Board Chairman Gus Guadagnino then abruptly adjourned the meeting.

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

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