Just a year ago, Hernando School Superintendent Bryan Blavatt characterized his bosses as "the most dysfunctional, nonproductive, counterproductive group of individuals I've ever seen in 40 years.'' The rant came as a four-member school board continually failed to resolve familiar topics — reorganizing the administrative staff and reducing transportation costs.
Shortly thereafter, Gov. Rick Scott filled a monthslong vacancy by tapping attorney Matthew Foreman to sit on the School Board. The group has progressed from getting lost in the minutia of micro-managing to more meaty issues of expanding adult vocational education and trying to meet more fairly the overwhelming demand for magnet schools.
On Aug. 14, Foreman is seeking voter-approval to stay in the seat for a four-year term. His is one of two School Board seats on the ballot this year, opening as the district seeks to bolster student achievement amid familiar budgetary woes triggered by falling property values and uncertain state aid. The nonpartisan elections are open to all Hernando County voters.
District 2: Matthew Foreman
Matthew Foreman, 29, a product of Hernando County schools, emerged as a leader from the get-go, providing thoughtful dialogue during School Board debates that helped break the customary impasses, even though Foreman wasn't always on the majority's side
If re-elected, Foreman wants to work on technology upgrades in schools, reducing overhead costs and boosting parental involvement.
He is opposed by William Kingeter, 74, who moved to Spring Hill a dozen years ago after a career that included deputy fire chief in Newark, N.J., and stints as a fire marshal, code enforcement director and construction official in other local governments in New Jersey. It's a background that provides him expertise more beneficial to county government administration. He said he decided to run to ensure an appointed School Board member did not go unchallenged, but he offers no ideas nor substantial reasoning to replace Foreman.
The Times recommends Matthew Foreman in District 2.
District 4: Robert Neuhausen
The District 4 race, to fill the seat being vacated by the retiring James Yant, features four candidates, two of whom should be familiar to voters because of their past runs for public office — Gustave "Gus'' Guadagnino, 58, and Robert Neuhausen, 44.
They are joined by first-time candidates Michael Angelo Gordon and Helen Villafane. Gordon, who turns 51 next week, is running on an anti-bullying campaign and little else. Villafane, 68, a retired teacher from New York, is a school literacy volunteer who tutors students preparing to take the GED exam. She said she was inspired to run because her volunteer work revealed unmet student needs. She has good intentions, but she lacks a big-picture vision for the district.
Guadagnino and Neuhausen are both strong candidates, though both offer specific platform planks that are problematic. Guadagnino's idea that a percentage of student grades should based on parental participation is unworkable. Neuhausen's call for an elected superintendent is an ill-conceived proposal that hasn't produced strong results elsewhere. It would be a step backward and other board members already said they do not support it.
Guadagnino, owner of Joni Industries and Seaboard Pencil, boasts a strong business acumen and his impressive resume of community volunteering provides him broad exposure to the education system and its financial needs. Guadagnino has been president of the private foundations supporting Hernando schools and Pasco Hernando Community College, and has been a board member for Take Stock in Children and the Early Learning Coalition. He'd like to capitalize on those ties to expand the district's relationships with area businesses to boost corporate sponsorships and to establish better internship and mentoring opportunities for students.
Neuhausen, an engineer and senior commodities manager/export control coordinator at Sparton Electronics, brings a parent's perspective to the race. His three children attend Hernando schools, and Neuhausen has volunteered for the past decade on school advisory councils and parent-teacher associations. It's a ground-level view of the schools that would be beneficial to the board.
Just as important, Neuhausen provides thoughtful, detailed ideas on the issues confronting the district. For instance, he wants to explore whether the district could boost parental involvement by rewarding children with preferences on selecting class electives. To trim overhead, he says the schools should limit after-school activities to just four days per week. By going dark once a week, the district should save energy and maintenance costs.
It's that kind of thinking that gives Neuhausen the edge in this race. For District 4 Hernando School Board, the Times recommends Robert Neuhausen.