LAND O'LAKES — A newly released report by the Florida Association of District School Superintendents paints a bleak picture of morale among top supervisors in the Pasco district.
A team interviewed leaders in individual schools, the district office and the School Board and conducted an anonymous survey. It's conclusion: Morale is poor at all levels, with the primary culprits being the weak economy, reductions in state funding and changes in state and federal rules involving work conditions. The worst area is the district's high schools, the report states, urging "immediate attention."
School principals say their opinions often get ignored by district supervisors. District-level administrators suggest that School Board members overstep their policy-making role.
School Board members have a strained relationship with superintendent Heather Fiorentino, who is characterized by many in the district's top ranks as "a person of strong will … who is willing to exercise that trait, verbally and frequently."
The Florida Association of District School Superintendents, which the Pasco district paid $8,000 to conduct the study, offers several recommendations — including leadership training, a review of the district power structure and a realignment of the administration. District officials said they are poring over the documents for ideas that might help improve the school system.
"We are hopeful we will find areas of efficiency we can move forward with," district spokeswoman Summer Romagnoli said. "This feedback has provided some areas of opportunity for (Fiorentino). She is reviewing that."
Fiorentino was on vacation Wednesday and unavailable for comment. She asked for this review to help her look for ways to streamline or better organize the district leadership structure at a time when many longtime officials have retired or announced plans to do so soon. The aim was to make the administration more effective while also looking for ways to save money.
The suggestions included the elimination of several supervisor positions, many of which were found not to be supervisory at all. The team also proposed revising jobs at the top of the ladder, adding an associate superintendent position and four area superintendents, for instance.
As a larger school district than it once was, the report states, Pasco would benefit from a redesign of its operational system. That might diminish some of the current management problems while promoting more team building.
School Board members said they want to take a closer look at the entire document before reaching any conclusions.
Chairwoman Joanne Hurley noted that some of the ideas require funding that is not necessarily available.
"We don't have money, but that doesn't mean we can't take suggestions," Hurley said. "We may not take every recommendation they make. But I certainly think we'd do well to at least look at the rationale they have for making the suggestions."
Board member Steve Luikart said he liked the concept of establishing four areas with superintendents overseeing them and reporting back to the district leadership. That would bring more continuity to district education, he said, adding that he did not back some of the other proposed new upper-level management jobs such as associate superintendent.
He did, however, support some of the other findings within the report, including the comments about mistrust between the board and superintendent's office. Luikart said he told the review team as much.
"When they interviewed me, I did fire off," he said. "I voiced my concerns on that."
Board member Cynthia Armstrong said she hoped to see relations improve as everyone gets to know each other better.
"The majority of the board is brand new. It's still a learning process," Armstrong said. "As time goes on we will be developing a better understanding of everybody's role."
Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at www.tampabay.com/blogs/gradebook.