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Hernando Times editorial: School Board has key role in reorganization

Months in the making, superintendent Wayne Alexander rolled out his proposed staff reorganization last week. Today, his bosses on the Hernando County School Board will discuss it as a group for the first time. As they do, they should bear in mind that their role is to set policy and authorize spending, but how those fiscal and policy decisions are implemented is a job best left to the superintendent.

That division of responsibilities might seem obvious, but history tells us that disagreements and misunderstandings about the details of operations can result in permanent damage in the relationship between board members and their chief executive officer. That conflict is less likely to occur in counties, including Hernando, where superintendents are appointed instead of elected. But it certainly does not preclude the possibility, and this particular proposal from Alexander has the potential to draw a strong reaction from the board.

Alexander has made some significant shifts in the organizational structure at district headquarters. He has eliminated some jobs, reclassified others and even created a few. In some instances, he also has reassigned key personnel.

Notable among the changes is the creation of a $91,000-a-year grant-writing job. It is hard to believe that such an essential, revenue-producing position did not exist before now. Although the district has secured grants, there has been no staff-level clearinghouse to identify and apply for the myriad funds available from state and federal governments, as well as private sector sources.

Other significant changes proposed by Alexander bode well for improving the performance of schools as a whole, including the addition of dedicated math coaches and instructional technology specialists.

Meanwhile, all teaching, administrative and management staff should benefit from Alexander's decision to appoint a supervisor of professional development. The continuing education and training of employees has been either absent or arbitrary for far too long and it is laudable that Alexander is focused on that shortcoming.

At the school level, where the School Board can't overrule his personnel decisions even if they wish, Alexander has announced administrative changes at one-third of the schools. Numerous principals and assistant principals are zig-zagging across the county and those changes probably will be the most visible to parents and students. One school that stands out is Hernando High School, which has posted a collective "D'' grade from the state for the past three years; Alexander has replaced the entire leadership team at the county's oldest high school.

As board members question Alexander about the front-office changes at their workshop this afternoon (1 p.m. Channel 614 on BrightHouse digital cable), they should give some consideration to how they will evaluate the success of this strategy. The outcome will shine a bright light on the superintendent's understanding of the district's needs and whether he can reach the goals they have set for him. Given that relevance to his continued employment, the board should not leave the measurement of this initiative to chance; that is only fair to Alexander and to the taxpayers who are footing the bill.

And, on that front, everyone should be pleased to know that Alexander has predicted his reshuffling will result in almost $400,000 savings in salaries. That claim should be the easiest — and one of the first — to be quantified during next year's budget.

Hernando Times editorial: School Board has key role in reorganization 03/31/08 [Last modified: Monday, April 7, 2008 4:34pm]
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