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Only educators need apply for Hernando County schools superintendent

BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County School Board members breezed through many of the details about the upcoming search to replace retiring superintendent Bryan Blavatt.

They quickly agreed Tuesday to a proposed time line that has the new superintendent taking over July 1 — the day after Blavatt's contract expires. They also agreed on doing the search in house, on the need for a citizens committee to make recommendations, and on how they wanted to advertise the position.

The sticking point, as it has been in the past, was the job description.

For the better part of an hour during Tuesday afternoon's workshop, board members debated semantics and exactly what qualifications should be required of candidates.

In the end, the board decided on narrowing the job description. The next superintendent must have at least a master's degree in education.

That's a departure from the past job description, which allowed a candidate to have master's degree in a field related to education.

"This is a board of education," said School Board member Dianne Bonfield. "I'm looking for an educator. I am not worried about narrowing the field to educators."

Board member John Sweeney agreed.

"It's something we should leave so we don't have 100 people apply that have no chance," Sweeney said.

On the other side of the debate was Vice Chairman Matt Foreman.

He repeatedly said he didn't feel it was a good idea to narrow the field of applicants by making the job description too limited.

"I think we should open it up," Foreman said. "I think we're in a position where we need to open it up to people who have had success in business."

With a majority of members supporting the requirement for a master's in education, they hammered out a few changes in the job description.

Then Blavatt spoke up.

"So (former Secretary of State) Colin Powell could not get the job," he said.

"No, he couldn't," Chairwoman Cynthia Moore responded.

"Or, most likely, do the job," Sweeney said.

At that point Foreman spoke up again.

"With all do respect," the lawyer started. "I haven't been on this board that long, but I managed to pick things up rather quickly because I'm intelligent. And most of the people who are going to apply are intelligent. ... With all due respect, I think you're wrong. I think somebody else can do the job. There's just going to be a learning curve.

"You guys have already eliminated the type of person I'm looking for here," he said.

Tuesday's meeting marked the first in-depth discussion of the search to replace Blavatt, who has long said he would not seek to renew his contract once it expires.

The time line has the School Board naming Blavatt's replacement in March.

The application period will begin Nov. 1 and remain open through the month. A search committee is slated to send its recommendations to the School Board in late January. In February, the board will select finalists, followed by interviews in March.

The salary range is $100,000 to $130,000.

While it's difficult to predict what the future holds, it might be instructive to look to the past.

Part of the reason Blavatt got the job was so he could groom a successor. When he was appointed in Hernando, School Board members said they hoped his mentoring would bring forth a person to eventually take his place.

"I think Mr. Blavatt is the type of person who could develop someone like Mr. (Ken) Pritz and other people in our county," Bonfield said in January 2010, after choosing Blavatt for the position.

Pritz was recently appointed as the district's second assistant superintendent, joining Sonya Jackson as the second-highest-ranking officials in the district.

In 2010, Pritz and Jackson, then the interim superintendent, competed for the top job before losing out to Blavatt.

Danny Valentine can be reached at dvalentine@tampabay.com or (352) 848-1432.

Only educators need apply for Hernando County schools superintendent 10/02/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 3, 2012 8:15am]
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