BROOKSVILLE — With school cranking up again Monday for thousands of Hernando County students, newly appointed superintendent Lori Romano has made one thing clear:
She wants to be right there with them.
During the first two days of the new school year, Romano and her two assistant superintendents plan to crisscross the county, visiting each of the district's 23 schools, meeting with students and making their presence felt throughout the district.
"I'm trying to show that we are in this together — that we are a team," she said.
Since taking over as superintendent July 1, Romano has been working at breakneck speed to establish herself in the district. She has met with School Board members, district-level administrators, and community members and organizations. Perhaps most impressively, she already has toured nearly all of the district's schools, conducting two-hour-plus meetings with each principal.
Her efforts are part of her 100-day entry plan, an extensive document Romano created to guide her initial days as a first-time superintendent.
The 10-page plan aims to address three primary goals: developing a strong relationship with the board, assessing the state of the district and meeting with all relevant internal and external parties.
More than a month into the job, School Board members seem pleased. At the end of Tuesday's meeting — Romano's second as superintendent — board members spoke highly of her early efforts.
"Everywhere I've gone, they're talking about Dr. Romano," said board member John Sweeney.
He called her early efforts "really, really impressive."
Board member Gus Guadagnino agreed.
"I'm extremely happy the way you've been out in the community," he told her. "I've seen you all over the place. Happy to see you out there."
Board member Cynthia Moore commended Romano's efforts and her approach to the job.
"I think she's following her plan well," she said. "I think she has a good plan."
So what's in the 100-day plan?
While much of it is focused on learning about the district in a general way, Romano identifies some specific areas she wants to highlight and review.
She plans to regularly review attendance data, eventually making recommendations as to how the district can improve student attendance. She will establish a team to review the district's graduation rate and implement initial steps to improve the rate, an area she identified as a problem when she came into the district.
She also will examine the dropout rate, another problem area, and take initial steps to improve that number.
Though she will target these numbers, the 100-day plan doesn't include specific goals to reach. Those will come later.
"The purpose of the entry plan is not about specific initiatives," she said.
Aside from student achievement issues, Romano plans to revamp the way the district communicates with the outside world.
In fact, it's already changing.
Romano has put in place a public information officer — Roy Gordon — as the central point of contact, requiring all media queries to first go through him. The district is also in the early stages of creating a Facebook page to help disseminate its messages, modeling the page closely after the one established by the Pasco County School District.
While many districts across the state have embraced this form of social media, several board members voiced concern about it. Board Chairman Matt Foreman has raised questions about the legal ramifications. Moore noted it was a change from past practice.
"It used to be we recommended that nobody go on Facebook," she said. "That's what every teacher was told when they started teaching here."
By the end of her first 100 days, Romano plans to create a "comprehensive summary" of the information she learned during her tour. She will provide an assessment of the organization and identify any changes she feels need to be made.
Romano said she believes Hernando has all the factors needed to be an A district — not the C it currently holds.
"I will bring my cabinet together to look at the data and formulate a plan to get us to be an A district again," she said.
Danny Valentine can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1432. On Twitter: @HernandoTimes.