Pasco County School Board members want Superintendent Heather Fiorentino to explain her "new direction"

LAND O'LAKES — Pasco County schools Superintendent Heather Fiorentino has remained steadfastly silent in the wake of her decision to dismiss well-regarded Assistant Superintendent Ray Gadd and take the district in "a new direction."

Dismayed School Board members expect Fiorentino to break her silence today and explain where she sees the district headed. Otherwise, some caution, they might move to derail her plan until they feel comfortable with it.

"I don't see how we can move forward with any action if we don't know which direction we're moving in," board member Kathryn Starkey said, suggesting the superintendent's non-school administrative reappointments might need closer scrutiny before the board votes on them. "You don't vote on things and get the plan afterward."

Board chairman Frank Parker acknowledged that the superintendent holds the upper hand legally in naming employees to hold jobs in the school district. Still, he said, the board has the authority to control the positions that are available for filling.

"That's where our direction would be, positions but not names in the positions," he said.

If Fiorentino isn't forthcoming with her intentions for the administration, he said, the board might choose to revisit the job allocations it approved earlier in June. "Once we see what she has to say, then we can move forward on it, one way or the other," Parker said.

Most important is to focus on the future and what's best for the Pasco school system, its students and employees, board vice chairman Allen Altman said. If the superintendent has a vision to move the district ahead, he continued, she needs to share it.

"I'm assuming that she will not expect us to act on something without having some indication of a long-term plan, and she will share that with us," Altman said.

Starkey did not share his optimism.

"I don't think she's going to reveal (her ideas) at this board meeting," Starkey said.

She is scheduled to meet with Fiorentino before the session, and expects to restate her displeasure with the decision to dump Gadd and her need to have more details before approving the administrative structure.

"The board's hands are somewhat tied in there's not much we can do about Ray," Starkey said. "But the School Board is the head of this district, and the superintendent is the administrator of the School Board's policies. Certainly, the direction that the district heads is within the School Board's prerogative."

She and Altman also have asked for clarification on Fiorentino's application of policies on employment of retired educators. The issue has come up because Fiorentino has refused to allow longtime Pasco High assistant principal Robin Futch serve another year in the post after retiring, while earlier this year naming retired principal Cindy Harper to lead Centennial Elementary.

Altman said he has not gotten a clear answer on that matter, while Starkey said she hoped the rules would be applied fairly and equally for all.

Fiorentino continued to decline comment on the reappointments. Board members Joanne Hurley and Cathi Martin could not be reached.

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at solochek@sptimes.com or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at blogs.tampabay.com/schools.

Pasco County School Board members want Superintendent Heather Fiorentino to explain her "new direction" 06/15/09 [Last modified: Monday, June 15, 2009 9:08pm]

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