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Hernando school superintendent's zero policy was last straw for board

Wayne Alexander flunked out of his job as Hernando school superintendent Tuesday night, done in by a policy that eliminated zeros from teachers' grade books.

The board killed the grade-change plan for elementary students after it was proposed during a July 16 workshop, but Chairman Dianne Bonfield said she learned it was used already, contrary to previously approved district grading policies.

"None of the board felt it was the right fit for our county, yet to find out it had been implemented, encouraged and recommended by administration in some schools is outrageous,'' Bonfield said Wednesday.

Usurping the board's authority was the final straw and Bonfield joined the sentiment shared previously by board members Pat Fagan and James C. Yant: Alexander has to go.

It is the correct, though tardy move. The board is the elected body setting policy to be administered by district employees. That staff — with or without Alexander's knowledge — felt empowered to use a controversial grading policy absent public discussion or School Board blessing is indicative of failed oversight or plain arrogance. It again showed the board, answerable to the public, is too often kept in the dark on imperative matters.

Bonfield said she also was influenced by the lawsuit from a Pasco County child seeking to be reinstated as a student at the Nature Coast Technical High School, a magnet school open exclusively to Hernando residents. The teenager was part of a group of out-of-county students allowed to enroll, in part, because administrators failed to confirm addresses and the former principal said she did not know portions of Pasco County also are assigned Spring Hill addresses by the U.S. Postal Service. Bonfield said that too showed a lack of accountability within the administration.

Booting Alexander — negotiations over a separation arrangement were being conducted Wednesday — is the right move and should have come months ago after he misled the board and the public about fulfilling his three-year contract. He initially announced his resignation to be effective in July, flip-flopped a week later and promised to stay through June 2010, then simultaneously applied for vacant superintendent jobs in New England to be closer to his family. It cost him credibility within the community and brought calls for his termination from Fagan and Yant.

Alexander remained employed then with the backing of Bonfield, and board members John Sweeney and Sandra Nicholson, but the superintendent's aggressive management style coupled with the lack of transparency meant it was just a matter of time before a third board member lost faith in Alexander's ability to lead the district.

For the time being, newly promoted assistant superintendent Sonya Jackson is available to lead the district into the new school year as the board searches for a permanent replacement. The successful applicant needs to be committed to Hernando County, accountable to the public, candid, and remember the superintendent's role is to carry out board policy, not to let staff members create it on the sly.

Hernando school superintendent's zero policy was last straw for board 08/12/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 12, 2009 5:09pm]
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