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Pasco County School Board has no recourse in dismissal of administrators

LAND O'LAKES — Pasco School Board members heaped praise Tuesday evening on three administrators whom superintendent Heather Fiorentino chose not to keep for the coming year.

They had no power to rehire assistant superintendent Ray Gadd, communication director Maureen Moore or Pasco High assistant principal Robin Futch, though.

Instead, the board focused on Fiorentino's plan for the future direction of the district.

Saying she doesn't know the details of Fiorentino's plan and might not agree with it, School Board member Joanne Hurley proposed rescinding the board's June 2 vote that authorized the assistant superintendent for support services and the communication director jobs.

If the board agrees with Fiorentino's plan later, it can always return the jobs to the organization, she said.

But board attorney Elliott Dunn said it could only reconsider the entire list of jobs allocated, not just a few.

Hearing that, Hurley withdrew her motion.

"I'm not going to impact the rest of that agenda item," she said.

Chairman Frank Parker reminded Hurley that she'd have time to address the matter.

"We have not approved a budget for next year," Parker told her. "There will be time for that."

During comments earlier in the meeting, several of the board members took turns lauding Gadd, Moore and Futch, and saying they will be sorely missed.

"They were wonderful employees," board member Cathi Martin said.

She and others said the way their dismissals came about — and became known — highlighted some problems with the way the district runs.

"One of the things that came out of this that is glaring to me is the need for better communication between the superintendent and the board," said Hurley, who unsuccessfully urged Fiorentino to reconsider the dismissal of those employees.

Board member Kathryn Starkey expressed similar dismay.

"We have a saying here of 'No surprises,' and that to the board came as a big surprise," Starkey said of the dismissals. "She has expressed a plan for the future. . . . We would be a rubber-stamping board if we approved positions without the plan first."

More than half the room was filled with supporters of Futch, whom Fiorentino decided not to reappoint. Futch had retired, then decided she wanted to come back. She was selected from a field of candidates for the assistant principal post at Pasco High.

Supporters at the meeting gave Futch a standing ovation after she pointedly criticized the superintendent for her last-minute notice of the decision.

"I followed proper procedures, interviewed and was recommended as the best candidate for the job, which I accepted. On June 1, I found out that the entire offer was rescinded and no rationale was provided," Futch told the board. "I am at a loss for words, and I seek answers."

Not everyone was critical of the superintendent's administrative moves.

Pasco Republican state committeeman Bill Bunting, who actively opposed the Penny For Pasco sales tax in 2004, spoke in favor of Fiorentino's right to clean out the people left behind by former superintendent John Long. That included Ray Gadd — who led the school district's push for the penny tax to raise money for school construction — although Bunting didn't mention him by name.

"You have a right to come in and do what you have to do and do your job correctly and make a clean sweep," Bunting said. "Her hands were tied when she came in. So she now did her job and did it right. . . . You will be surprised to see how many people in Pasco County do support this lady."

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at solochek@sptimes.com or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at blogs.tampabay.com/schools.

Pasco County School Board has no recourse in dismissal of administrators 06/16/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 16, 2009 8:59pm]

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