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Shakeup begins in county schools

BROOKSVILLE — The central offices at the Hernando County Schools have a sleepy feel to them, nestled on a leafy parcel on Broad Street.

But behind the scenes, it's shakeup time.

Eight months into his job as superintendent, Wayne Alexander this week unveiled a long-awaited restructuring plan to School Board members and principals. He said the plan would save the district $395,036 per year, beef up the delivery of technology instruction and support, and streamline a curriculum that he's called hopelessly snarled.

The plan is due to be discussed April 1 by the School Board, and must be ratified by a board vote.

Under his proposal, two top lieutenants — Ken Pritz, executive director of support services, and Barbara Kidder, director of labor relations and professional standards — would see their positions eliminated. Both would have a good shot at getting similar positions in a revamped organizational chart. But there are no promises.

"I feel good about being around next year," Pritz said Thursday.

Since his hiring last August from a Connecticut district, Alexander has minced few words. He's pointed to a low metabolism in central office, job overlap, principals in the district's 21 schools marching to their own drummers, and a frustrating lack of consistency in the quality and procedures for educating the district's 23,000 students. And he's railed about some glaring deficiencies, like the lack of a single grant writer.

"Millions of dollars are available in state and federal grants," wrote Alexander, who did not return several calls for comment.

If the board supports his plan, that will change next fall with the addition of a $91,000 position to bring in state, federal and nonprofit funds that are currently passing the district by.

On the curriculum side, two elementary and secondary positions would be replaced by five slots: one for the elementary, middle and high school levels plus a subject area specialty, and two more for the remaining academic subjects. David Schoelles and Debbie Pfenning have already been penciled into the elementary and middle slots, respectively, and specialist Elaine Wooten has announced her retirement.

The district also would add three math coaches, one for each division.

In the technology realm, the management information systems director position held by Cindy Peters at a salary of $107, 487 would be replaced by a supervisor's position for $91,000 and another director of technology and information position. Twenty technology teachers would morph into 10 technology support specialists and 10 more instructional technology specialists.

Notably absent in the plan was any reference to changes in the principals' corps, aside from the elimination of a vacant assistant principal position at the STAR alternative school and another at J.D. Floyd Elementary, which will see a downsizing next fall with the opening of a new school in Spring Hill.

But officials said it was likely that many principals would find themselves at new schools next fall.

The plan also would cut positions in maintenance, transportation and support services. It adds seniority categories in the maintenance department.

Changes at the senior level are more structural. Pritz's position, supervising the district's maintenance and facilities, would be replaced by a similar job that also encompasses special curriculum programs, including gifted education and vocational or career programs.

Kidder's job overseeing staff development, professional standards, and labor negotiations would be split up into several pieces. Heather Martin, executive director of business services, would take over the contract talks. And Kidder could, potentially, take the new job of professional development supervisor — a task Alexander has identified as a top priority.

"I feel confident I'm going to have a role in the district," Kidder said. "Wherever the district wants to put me, that's where I'll go."

Several board members said the liked what they've seen so far.

"He's shaking the apple cart a little bit, and that's one of the reasons we brought him in," said John Sweeney. "I'm glad he has the courage to do what he sees as right."

"It's something that's been needed for a long, long time," agreed Pat Fagan. "I just hope we don't have a lot of internal fighting over the changes that are being recommended. I'm sure there are some people who don't want change."

Tom Marshall can be reached at tmarshall@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1431.

Shakeup begins in county schools 03/20/08 [Last modified: Thursday, March 27, 2008 1:48pm]
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