The process for selecting Hernando's next school superintendent is down to four finalists, and none of them is local.
Board members on Friday unanimously picked Hubert Balboni of Panama City; William Beckley of Skokie, Ill.; Robert Myers of Lafayette, Ind.; and John Sanders of Jackson, Miss., from a pool of eight semifinalists.
Settling on the four finalists was easy for the board. More difficult was deciding whether to include Assistant Superintendent Wendy Tellone, a discussion that took about an hour of Friday's seven-hour meeting.
The naming of the finalists concluded a process that started several weeks ago when a 16-member advisory committee began examining the applications of 56 people. The group sent to the board 13 applicants it believed were qualified. Two of the committee's choices withdrew because they accepted other jobs. After phone interviews with the remaining 11, the board whittled the group down to eight, from which the finalists were chosen.
Beckley will be interviewed by the board at 9 a.m. Wednesday in the School Board meeting room in Brooksville. The other interviews will take place the following week. The board is scheduled to select Hernando's second appointed superintendent July 14.
Don Brown, executive director of instructional services for Hernando schools, was chosen by the board in March to run the district until the permanent leader comes to town on Aug. 1.
Brown, along with Tellone and Ridge Manor resident Robert Pearce, were the only Hernando residents who applied for the position. The committee chose only Tellone for the School Board to consider.
Friday morning, board members contemplated overriding the committee's decision and considering Brown for an interview.
Board member Gail Coleman said she thought both Brown and Tellone should have been considered because their backgrounds are similar. But she believed neither of them had the credentials she was looking for in a superintendent.
Board Chairman Jim Malcolm, who voted against interviewing Brown, said that if board members wanted the local candidates to be interviewed, they should have instructed the committee to put the names aside and not review their resumes.
In the end, the board decided against interviewing Brown because he did not have the qualifications of the other candidates, and he also lacked the varied experience of Tellone, who oversees instruction and human resources.
Tellone, who was one of five people given preliminary phone interviews Friday, did not impress enough board members to be chosen as a finalist.
Coleman said she did not have "100 percent trust" in Tellone, and implied that she has problems with Tellone's performance. But on the advice of board attorney Karen Gaffney, Coleman declined to say what her problems with Tellone were.
Board member Stephen Galaydick said Tellone lacked the decisiveness and leadership qualities that the board is looking for in its next school chief.
And board member Sandra Nicholson said she did not consider Tellone as qualified as the other remaining candidates. She said that if the board considered Tellone as a finalist, it would simply be because she was the only remaining local candidate.
"Local candidates have to be treated differently because they are different, and you will never change that," argued Vince Vanni, one of several selection committee members who attended Friday's meeting. "No one is saying she should be superintendent, but there is nothing that she has said or nothing that she has done that disqualifies her from moving up."
Teacher Jo Hartege agreed with Vanni.
"I'm not saying hire her. I'm saying interview her, and maybe the things you say will come out, maybe not. There are a lot of people who are rooting for the local candidate," Hartege said. "You could bring somebody in from out of state. Would I devote 100 percent to that person? Not for a while. Would I devote 100 percent for Wendy? Yeah. I know it. I've worked for her.
". . . She's extremely popular for what she's done" in the district.
These are the four men still in the running to be the next Hernando County school superintendent:
Beckley, 43, has been superintendent of the East Prairie School District in Skokie, Ill., since 1991. His district includes students of 33 nationalities and has been recognized for its program for students who speak languages other than English. A graduate of Illinois State University, Beckley received his doctorate from Drake University in 1986. In his application, Beckley refers to Hernando County as his second home because he frequently visits his mother in Brooksville and his brother in Spring Hill.
Balboni, 57, is the assistant superintendent of learning for the Bay County school system in Panama City. Before Balboni took his current position in 1992, he was assistant superintendent of business/administration for the 26,500-student Bay district for three years. He also has been an assistant superintendent for the Washington County school district and an instructor at Chipola Junior College in Marianna. A former adjunct professor for the University of West Florida and Florida State University, Balboni earned his doctorate in education from Auburn University.
Myers, 53, is superintendent for a 7,500-student district in Lafayette, Ind. It is the fourth superintendent position he has had in Indiana since 1979. He has served as an assistant superintendent, curriculum director, elementary and middle school principal and assistant high school principal in other Indiana school districts. Myers earned his master's and doctorate degrees from Purdue University.
Sanders, a former social studies teacher, is deputy superintendent of the 33,000-student Jackson Public School District in Jackson, Miss. Sanders spent 23 years as a high school principal and six years as a superintendent in several Michigan school systems. He left the education field for four years to become an associate with an architectural firm that specializes in building schools. Sanders received his doctorate in education from Wayne State University in Detroit.