BROOKSVILLE — They've been passed over.
And over again.
Hernando County School District assistant superintendents Sonya Jackson and Ken Pritz have each competed for the top job in the district's past three searches for a superintendent of schools. Each time, they've missed the mark.
In the most recent search, the first where they both held the district's second-highest title, they were beat out by a younger external candidate with no prior experience as a superintendent or assistant superintendent.
Lori Romano, 41, director of adult, community, secondary and virtual education in Martin County, was selected to replace Bryan Blavatt, who is retiring at the end of June.
So how do Jackson and Pritz feel?
While it was tough being passed over, both say they will stay on with the district, do their jobs to the best of their ability and assist Romano in whatever way possible.
"My plans are to move forward with what we've started in the division of teaching and learning," said Pritz, speaking about his plans for the first time since Romano's selection. "We've got some good things going on.
"We'll take the district in the direction the School Board wants us to go and do our best to improve instruction," he added. "That's what my job is, and that's what I want to do."
"I'm going to stay aboard and also work with the superintendent and support her in her endeavors, provide any information that I can with the institutional knowledge that I have," she said.
Pritz has been with the Hernando school district for 33 years, and Jackson for nine.
Pritz, 55, said Hernando is home — the place where he has raised his six children and planted his roots.
"This is where I'm going to be for now," he said. "If an opportunity came along somewhere along the way, I would look at it, but that's not because I'm disgruntled. I've done that for the last several years of my career."
Pritz is in the state's Deferred Retirement Option Program and is set to retire May 1, 2016.
"I always leave options open because once I get out of the DROP, I need to find a job anyway," he said. "I'm not going to quit."
He and Jackson acknowledged it was difficult when the School Board chose Romano as the district's next superintendent. Deeply religious, both said they saw God's hand in the decision.
"I guess it was hard," said Pritz. "I believe there's a purpose in everything. I believe there is a higher power and that if I didn't get this job, then I was protected from something."
Jackson feels that God has called her to be exactly where she is and that she will know when the time is right to move on.
"I feel like I'm being overlooked," she said, "but I know that everything works in God's timing."
Danny Valentine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1432. On Twitter: @HernandoTimes.