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RESIGNATION ANOTHER BLOW TO SCHOOL STABILITY

So much for steadiness. After public declarations of a need for less upheaval within the Hernando School District following the announced departure of superintendent Wayne Alexander, School Board member Dianne Bonfield resigned her role as chairwoman this week. Bonfield said she would rather hand over the gavel than sign a contract acknowledging a board majority's choice as interim superintendent.

Bonfield's overreaction to elevating Sonya Jackson from assistant superintendent to an interim caretaker's role shows an indifference toward continuity in a school district administration dominated of late by instability. Too, it reveals a continuing pursuit to scapegoat somebody beyond Alexander for a scrubbed grading policy proposal and a lawsuit over magnet school attendance.

Bonfield, to her credit, pulled the trigger in seeking Alexander's removal, citing the district's inability to follow board direction restricting attendance at Nature Coast Technical High School to Hernando residents only, as well as her discovery that teachers already had used a controversial no-zero grading policy before it ever came to the School Board for consideration. The board killed the proposal over the summer.

But in resigning her chairwoman's position, Bonfield unfairly pushed blame on Jackson for the missing institutional controls over Nature Coast's attendance. Jackson, a former director of student services, should have held principals accountable, according to Bonfield's skewed logic, even though neither school-based or district level administrators were verifying student addresses.

There is plenty of blame to go around. The district never told the high school principal how to enforce the attendance rules. The registrar at the high school didn't verify addresses of students progressing from Hernando middle schools that did not have residency requirements. Even former principal Tizzy Schoelles told the Times she was unaware that some Spring Hill addresses were in Pasco County. The result was a lawsuit from two Pasco County children who had been told to leave the school and a board decision to reverse temporarily the closed-door policy at Nature Coast.

The person responsible for administering School Board mandates is the superintendent, and Alexander departs in five days. Bonfield's insistence that Jackson share public culpability as well is hard to figure.

The role of School Board chairwoman is largely ceremonial, so Bonfield's resignation from that job will not interrupt daily educational and administrative activities at the district. But her symbolism could have long-term implications by sending unflattering messages about the political atmosphere within the district.

The School Board still must find a permanent replacement for Alexander and also is seeking districtwide accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Bonfield's knee-jerk reaction to being on the losing end of a vote promoting Jackson displays to those outside the district - potential superintendent candidates and the accreditation team - that petulance supersedes stability.

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