Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Education

Superintendent Bryan Blavatt gets mostly positive reviews from Hernando School Board members

BROOKSVILLE — Hernando's short-timer superintendent of schools received generally positive marks this week on his annual evaluation.

Four of five School Board members rated Bryan Blavatt as "effective," "very effective" or "outstanding" — the highest mark — for most of the 35 criteria under eight categories on the evaluation form. Among the categories are leadership, policy and governance, community relations, and curriculum planning and development.

"All in all, I think we're moving in the right direction, despite some really tough times we're facing," board member John Sweeney told Blavatt during a workshop Tuesday.

Sweeney's assessment was by far the most shining, giving Blavatt "outstanding" marks for all but two of the criteria. Sweeney said he withheld judgment in those two areas because he wanted to wait for all of the scores from the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test to come in, and to see the result of Blavatt's hard-fought reorganization of the district office.

The most critical evaluation came from board member James Yant, who rated Blavatt as "usually effective" in all 35 criteria.

Blavatt, who turns 66 on Monday, is entering the third and final year of his contract, which pays him $130,000 a year. And he has made it clear he does not plan to ask for an extension.

The evaluations did not include space for written comments. All board members except for Yant met with Blavatt individually in recent days to discuss their assessments.

During Tuesday's workshop, Yant declined to offer detailed criticism.

"A lot of what I could say would hurt more than it could help," he said.

He did criticize Blavatt for, at a workshop last month, serving up a list of achievements during the past year. Yant said that took the focus off students.

Chairwoman Cynthia Moore, vice chairman Matt Foreman and member Dianne Bonfield told Blavatt they were generally happy with his performance.

"There aren't really that many bad things, but I think there are things we do need to work on," Bonfield said. "We're moving, I think, in the direction we need to."

Despite the reluctance of the board to support past reorganization plans, Blavatt made a good call by asking for a second assistant superintendent, Bonfield said. She said he does a good job of responding to board members when they call, but needs to be more proactive about keeping them in the loop.

As examples, Bonfield cited Blavatt's decision to eliminate bus stops at local day care centers without notifying the board, and his directive to principals to submit plans to cut 10 percent of their staffing allocations. The list of school staff cuts has yet to be presented to the board, but Bonfield said she is already getting calls about the issue.

"That decision is made by principals, yet the board is held accountable," Bonfield said.

Blavatt used the same form for his self-evaluation. He didn't rate himself lower than "very effective" for any of the 35 criteria.

Addressing Yant's criticism, Blavatt said the list of accomplishments he presented last month was aimed at giving board members his perspective on where the district has made progress, due in large part to the staff.

Despite the positive evaluation, Blavatt will not receive a pay increase. In fact, the notion of a raise didn't even come up Tuesday. Earlier in the workshop, the district's chief financial officer told the board to expect a nearly $3 million shortfall for the 2012-13 budget.

The relationship between the board and Blavatt has been generally smooth since last summer, arguably the low point of his tenure. Frustrated by what he considered to be micromanaging and an inability to make and stick with tough decisions, Blavatt called the board dysfunctional and wondered aloud if he was a good fit for the district.

Four months later, Blavatt praised his bosses for their progress in those areas. He struck a similar tone Tuesday during the discussion of his evaluation, thanking the board for a respectful relationship, despite disagreements.

"Your responsibility is to hold the superintendent accountable," he said. "I appreciate the fact that you let me know on a regular basis, 'Look, Bryan, I don't think that's what we want here.' "

In an interview with the Times later in the week, Yant said Blavatt should not have presented his self-evalaution before the board members had a chance to offer theirs. He said he has made it clear in past meetings with Blavatt where the superintendent needs to improve.

"I really didn't need to rehash any of that," Yant said, noting that he will leave the board later this year instead of running for a second four-year term. "If I cast doubt or negativity, that would make the job of the other School Board members that much harder."

Tony Marrero can be reached at (352) 848-1431 or [email protected]

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