Monday, February 19, 2018
Education

Pasco education foundation head steps down

For years, the Pasco Education Foundation knew one leader: Chip Wichmanowski.

He resigned in 2012, and foundation directors took eight months to find a replacement. Tom Avramis, who led an education nonprofit in California, took the executive director post amid glowing words.

"His level of experience will be phenomenal for the organization," foundation chairwoman Donna Prentice said at the time.

He lasted about as long as the search.

Avramis announced his resignation at the end of May, almost a year to the day he took over the fundraising organization that gives grants to teachers and scholarships to students.

"A year was enough to figure out I needed to transition into something else," Avramis said. "I have a couple of options."

He planned to help with the change to new leadership before leaving. But the foundation board already has its staff reporting to a subcommittee, which is working on "next steps."

"The foundation is moving forward," said Prentice, who works for the Tampa Bay Times.

Prentice said Avramis made his decision on his own. There had been some rumblings of discontent within the foundation, though, particularly after Take Stock In Children — the organization's largest budget item — moved to separate itself from the foundation's umbrella.

School Board member Alison Crumbley, for one, suggested that dispute might have played a role in the decision to separate. She said she hoped that, whatever the reasons, the foundation would forge ahead stronger.

"I want everything to work out for Take Stock and for the education foundation, too," she said. "I just want to see it expand."

Avramis expected the foundation leadership to make some key decisions about its operational model and its mission moving forward. But for himself, he said, it was time for a new challenge.

• • •

This week marked the first time in 15 years Lynne Webb didn't lead the United School Employees of Pasco. Kenny Blankenship took over the USEP presidency on Sunday.

In her final School Board meeting as president, on May 20, Webb offered an official farewell and predicted good things to come. She spoke after the board spent an hour recognizing dozens of award-winning students and hearing from a few who made mistakes along the way.

"Of all the School Board meetings that I attend, I have to say, this one at the end of the year is the best because it reminds us why we chose this profession, this calling. Because you see the students, and not just the high achievers," she said. "From the students who are making apologies to the ones who are earning awards, they are our students, every one of them."

Behind each one, she said, stands family, and also someone from the schools.

"The dedication is toward the students," Webb said. "I've never lost sight of it, and I have never known a board that has either. … You have strong leadership here and strong leadership at USEP. I know moving forward good things are in store."

Teachers return to work Aug. 11. Classes resume Aug. 18.

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 909-4614.

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