The Hernando County School District saw a big change at the top this year.
In March, School Board members, by a vote of 3-2, named Martin County public schools administrator Lori Romano to replace outgoing superintendent Bryan Blavatt, who retired.
The decision caught many by surprise.
Romano was not among the five candidates recommended by the citizen committee charged with reviewing superintendent applicants. Only School Board member John Sweeney expressed a strong desire to interview her and add her to the list of finalists. Romano had never held positions as a principal or assistant superintendent.
She also beat out two high-profile internal candidates: assistant superintendents Ken Pritz and Sonya Jackson.
After back-and-fourth contract negotiations, Romano officially took over on July 1.
While Blavatt was seen as a stabilizing force in the district amid trying financial times, Romano was seen as someone who would bring in fresh ideas and energy to propel the district forward.
Romano has made her presence known in her first six months on the job, visiting schools, students and administrators, attending community events and hosting public forums.
She has shown she is not afraid to make swift changes.
Less than a month into the job, Romano replaced Eastside Elementary School principal Tim Urban after the school earned an F grade from the state. Earlier this month, she moved assistant superintendent of teaching and learning Ken Pritz to the district's plant operation site, putting him in charge as the manager of warehouse and purchasing.
Romano has said that her top priorities include increasing student attendance and graduation rates, decreasing the dropout rate and focusing on program evaluation.
Danny Valentine, Times staff writer