BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County School District announced three high-level administrative appointments Wednesday, including a new K-8 school principal, an interim high school principal and a new director of student services.
The decisions aren't short on intrigue.
Superintendent Bryan Blavatt appointed Mary-Grace Surrena to the student services position after a review committee said Surrena, a school psychologist, was the best person for the job.
Surrena previously had held the job for eight months, but lost it in May when Blavatt decided against reappointing her. He appointed Felita Lott, who left at the end of June to take a job in Pinellas County. The position was left vacant.
Surrena had been groomed for years to take over the director's position from Jim Knight, who retired in September 2011 after two decades in the job.
In June, he spoke out before the Hernando School Board in opposition to Blavatt's decision not to reappoint Surrena.
"I have never known of one administrator in this district that was demoted in less than one year," Knight said. "Prior to tonight, all were given a year to improve or placed in a different school or in a similar position."
Knight said Surrena had received nothing but excellent or outstanding evaluations.
Surrena said at the time she was planning on pursuing her legal options. And in a letter to the School Board and Blavatt, a lawyer for Surrena, Karen Gaffney, said that her client was wrongfully not reappointed and was discriminated against because of her gender.
Blavatt had said Surrena was "too nice" for the position and that "there was a perception out there that she was too soft," the letter said.
Blavatt said on Wednesday he was assured by his staff that Surrena was the best available candidate for the post.
"Obviously, the staff vetted her and made that decision," he said. "It's never been a situation involving my personal feelings or whatever. If she's the best person out there at the present time, then I've got to do it."
Surrena has been with the district for 24 years.
"I'm very excited to have the opportunity to serve the district in a leadership position again," she said.
Blavatt also made two high school principal announcements.
Retired principal Marvin Gordon will be the interim principal at Central High School, replacing retiring principal Joe Clifford as the district continues to look for a permanent replacement.
Clifford's last day is Jan. 26.
Blavatt again said he accepted the review committee's recommendation, which was to not recommend any of the 12 candidates who applied. They didn't name any finalists.
"It's not alarming," he said. "I think a lot of it is timing."
He said leaving midyear is more complicated, with many principals not wanting to exit their current schools.
The district will advertise the position again.
Gordon, who retired in 2011, was most recently a principal at Spring Hill Elementary and before that was a longtime principal at Parrott Middle School. He was also a Hernando High principal.
At Challenger K-8 School of Science and Mathematics, assistant principal Michael Maine will take over for retiring principal Sue Stoops. He was one of three assistant principals with the school.
Danny Valentine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1432. Tweet him @HernandoTimes.