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New Hernando superintendent wants to fortify leadership

BROOKSVILLE — Last month, the state released an annual report that ranked Hernando as the leanest school district in Florida when it comes to administrative spending.

That can be a point of pride, an indicator that the district is putting dollars where it counts: the classroom. But by superintendent Bryan Blavatt's estimate, the district's leanness has become a liability.

On Tuesday, two months to the day of his arrival in the district's top spot, Blavatt will go to the School Board with a reorganization plan that would add a second assistant superintendent, among other positions.

"It's obvious we have cut at the central office in so many areas," Blavatt said. "We're down to ridiculously low numbers. It's great we haven't cut at the school level, we haven't cut teachers, but you still have to have the infrastructure there to support teachers."

Under the new structure, the assistant superintendent for "teaching and learning" would oversee most of the district's instructional components and departments, such as the principals, curriculum and assessment, community and adult education, and professional development.

This person would also take responsibility for the technology information services department, currently overseen by Heather Martin, the executive director of business services. Martin would retain oversight of human resources, finance, purchasing and food and nutrition.

The second assistant superintendent would be for student support services, overseeing federal programs such as Title I, exceptional student education, student services, and the nuts-and-bolts departments of facilities, maintenance and transportation.

A few years ago, Martin and two other executive directors divvied up oversight of these three areas, but the leadership staff was trimmed under then-superintendent Wayne Alexander to save money.

"I don't think we've recovered from it yet," Blavatt said.

Last year, the board agreed to bring back an assistant superintendent position, currently held by Sonya Jackson.

Blavatt said the district also needs more itinerant positions, staffers who are based at headquarters but spend most of their time providing support at the school level. He cited ESE as a prime example of an area that needs more help.

Blavatt declined to offer much more in the way of specifics this week. In fact, on Tuesday he will only be asking the board for permission to bring back a formal reorganization proposal.

He acknowledged, though, that the plan would cost money. When pressed for an estimate, Blavatt said the additional positions he has in mind could cost as much as $400,000. The scope of the final proposal will depend on how the budget picture — which is expected to be bleak — shapes up in the coming weeks, he said.

The proposal isn't a surprise to board member Sandra Nicholson. Blavatt had indicated from the beginning that the district needed more help, Nicholson said. She promised to listen closely Tuesday.

"It's going to come to the bottom line and if we can afford it," Nicholson said.

On another front, Blavatt has kept his promise not to do a lot of shifting of school-level administrators. In fact, Blavatt is not moving any principals or assistant principals on his own accord.

Robert Griffin, assistant principal at Nature Coast Technical High School, is not being reappointed at the recommendation of principal Toni-Ann Noyes, Martin said. Neither Griffin nor Noyes returned a call for comment.

There are at least three administrative posts opening due to promotions, retirements or transfers that will have to be filled in the coming weeks. That process, in turn, tends to create more vacancies when internal applicants are successful.

The top priority is the vacancy left by Westside Elementary principal Dominick Ferello, Martin said. Ferello, under fire from teachers at his school, has asked for a transfer and for now is headed for the assistant principal position at Eastside Elementary that will be open due to the retiring John Shepherd.

The application period for the Westside job closes Wednesday and the plan is to have someone in place by July 1, Martin said. The internal applicants, as of Friday afternoon: Griffin of Nature Coast; Jamie Young, assistant principal at Powell Middle; Carmine Rufa, assistant principal at West Hernando Middle; and Dianne Azzarelli, assistant principal at Explorer K-8.

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

New Hernando superintendent wants to fortify leadership 05/28/10 [Last modified: Friday, May 28, 2010 8:29pm]
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