BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County School Board members have named six finalists who will compete to be the district's next superintendent.
Five were nominated by a citizens committee this month. The sixth, Lori Romano of Martin County, was added to the list at the urging of School Board member John Sweeney, who said he wanted to meet her in person. None of the other School Board members were adamant about interviewing Romano.
Committee members didn't include her among their five recommended candidates because they thought she lacked diversified leadership experience, said Joe Vitalo, president of the Hernando Classroom Teachers Association, who was a member of the advisory committee.
School Board members spent little time discussing the candidates during a workshop Tuesday. They all said they were pleased with the names recommended by the advisory committee.
"It's the first time I've ever agreed with the committee to this detail," Sweeney said. "The committee did a great job. I'm on board with all five."
The finalists include two internal candidates — assistant superintendents Ken Pritz and Sonya Jackson — and three other Floridians: Constance Jones of Estero, Diana Greene of Ocala and Rebecca Fleck of Sebring.
The five were whittled from 34 applicants.
But there's a wrinkle.
Jones and Greene are finalists for the superintendent's position in Manatee County, a job that pays considerably more than Hernando will pay its next superintendent. Manatee's salary range is $170,000 to $195,000, according to the Herald-Tribune in Sarasota. Hernando's superintendent will make $100,000 to $130,000.
Manatee is expected to name a superintendent tonight.
Jones — and to a lesser extent Greene — received favorable reviews from the Manatee advisory group that is helping to evaluate candidates, according to the Herald-Tribune.
Jones, a chief academic officer with Lee County who is filling in for a middle school principal, impressed committee members with her background in curriculum and a financial plan for the district, the Herald-Tribune reported.
Greene, a former deputy superintendent in Marion County, earned praise from committee members for her high energy and detailed plans for student achievement, according to the Herald-Tribune. Members, however, noted her rocky relationship with the Marion teachers union.
Pritz and Jackson were the first names recommended to the School Board for the Hernando job. Both competed for the position previously, eventually losing out to Bryan Blavatt, who will retire at the end of June.
Jones was a finalist for the superintendent's position in Lee before another candidate was selected. She also has been a finalist in Pinellas and Palm Beach counties.
Greene was a deputy superintendent in Marion County before she ran unsuccessfully for the county's elected superintendent position. She was then reassigned to an elementary school as principal.
Fleck is the assistant superintendent of schools overseeing curriculum and instruction in Highlands County. She made an unsuccessful run for superintendent in that county, which also elects its chief of schools.
Romano is director of the adult, community, secondary and virtual education programs in Martin County. Before that, she worked with the Florida Department of Education.
Candidate interviews in Hernando will be held in March, and a new superintendent is expected to be chosen March 19.
The new superintendent will begin work July 1.
Danny Valentine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1432. On Twitter: @HernandoTimes.