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Interim school chief is left off final list

The news came as somewhat of a surprise.

When members of the Hernando School Board heard last week that interim Superintendent Don Brown was eliminated from the final round of people in the running for the vacant superintendent job, they were caught off guard.

Assistant Superintendent Wendy Tellone made the list, as expected, but the majority of the board said they thought Brown also would be selected by the district's superintendent selection committee.

"I had a preconceived notion of two possibilities: Both of them or neither one of them," said board member Gail Coleman, who was at Thursday night's committee meeting. "If you were to review their resumes there are so many similarities. It is a tough one."

Now, Coleman and two other board members say they would at least like to discuss the possibility of whether Brown should be added to the list of candidates who will be considered for interviews later this week.

"I would still like to see us interview Don Brown," board member John Druzbick said. "I'd like to interview him to see the quality of the people we have in this county compared to the other applicants. That would give us a good gauge of whether a Don Brown or a Wendy Tellone can handle the job."

But the idea does not appeal to board Chairman Jim Malcolm.

"There is that possibility, but I wouldn't recommend it," Malcolm said. "I think that at that point and time, the committee carried out their charge, and if we went against it, they would probably feel their work was meaningless."

Brown could not be reached for comment Monday.

At last week's meeting, 15 committee members reviewed the last 16 of 55 applications that were submitted to the district. Any applicant who received 10 or more "yes" votes was forwarded to the School Board for consideration.

Tellone received 12 out of 15 votes, and Brown received seven.

The Rev. Robin Murray, who served as committee chairperson, said that Brown did not make it simply because he lacked the experience that the board said it was looking for in its next school chief.

"There were superintendents and assistant superintendents who scored higher than him and didn't make it," Murray said. "It's a very unfortunate situation because he's a very capable person."

Committee member Vince Vanni wanted both of the longtime administrators to make the cut.

"I believe Wendy and Don do have an asset that none of the candidates have. In my eyes, they have made a commitment to Hernando long before the superintendent job became available in 1995," Vanni said. "We know they will both stay. They will not run when things get hot. I'm not saying it's the deciding factor, but I think that it's a critical one."

Tellone, 44, and Brown, 51, have similar backgrounds.

Both have been in Hernando 15 years or more. Both have served as principals and district-level administrators. But, while both have master's degrees, Tellone has worked on her doctorate and only has a dissertation to complete. And the board specifically stated in its advertisement for the job that a person who had a doctorate and a proven track record was preferred.

Tellone said she has proven herself during her four years as an assistant superintendent and the other varied positions she has held.

"I feel like I've been very fortunate to have had the opportunities I have had. I've accomplished some things that have been in line with our vision," said Tellone, who oversees instruction and human resources. "It would be a privilege to serve students, parents, and teachers in the capacity of superintendent."

Brown, who still holds the title of executive director of instructional services, was appointed to the temporary job in March over Tellone and Tom Maher, assistant superintendent of facilities.

At the time, some board members said the reason that neither Maher nor Tellone was their top choice was because the twosome had so many important duties already. Maher did not apply for the Hernando post because he recently accepted an assistant superintendent position for the Citrus County school system.

Tellone is one of 13 applicants who have been recommended to the board. Eight were selected earlier this month, and five from Thursday night's meeting.

Three from the first group were interviewed by the board last week. On Friday, the board will decide which of the five will be interviewed. The reason Brown could be reconsidered is because the board members have said that none of the applicants has been completely eliminated. If they are not satisfied with the candidates chosen, they can take another look at the rest.

The board is scheduled to pick five finalists Friday and the district's next superintendent will be selected next month.