Respondents criticize superintendent in Hernando schools survey

Hernando County Superintendent Lori Romano
Hernando County Superintendent Lori Romano
Published May 25, 2018

Along with complaints about too much testing and the need for more technology in classrooms, Hernando County School District received grumbles against Superintendent Lori Romano in a recent community survey — with some pushing for her firing.

The anonymous, free-response questionnaire was the public's chance to inform administrators as they prepare the district's five-year plan, set to be presented to the School Board on Tuesday.

Romano did not return the Tampa Bay Times' requests for comment. However, deputy superintendent Heather Martin said in a prepared statement that the district is "pleased with the results of this survey and will be using the feedback as we create our action plans to support the objectives."

"Get rid of the superintendent," one respondent of the survey wrote. "She has a HUGE hidden agenda and makes decisions that are not hers to make."

"She uses her power to intimidate," the person added.

Another respondent urged the district to "have a leadership team (superintendent and assistants) that will communicate effectively and be approachable."

"The current administration is NEITHER of those things," the person said. "If you want successful students, you need teachers who want to be in the classroom … not those who fear their administrators and/or jobs."

Some simply wrote, "get rid of Romano" or "get a new superintendent."

Another criticized the district's "atmosphere of retribution for bringing forth new ideas."

One said Hernando should have a leader "who is concerned about our schools and not so much about how much more money she can get," while another said the School Board should cut Romano's salary.

"Hire a superintendent that will support teachers, students and work (to) develop positive relationships in the community."

Under the second part of the survey, which asked participants to list the "qualities of an ideal school district," more than one respondent expressed the need for a superintendent who listens to district stakeholders, like parents, staff and community members, and makes decisions together with the School Board.

"The district needs a leader that will work well with the teachers and administrators — not fire anyone who disagrees with her (Romano)," one wrote. "The state should once again make the position an elected instead of appointed position."

Romano has received similar criticisms in the past, particularly on the district-wide survey sent out to more than 900 district employees last year.

The superintendent scored an overall average rating of 2.86 out of 5, according to a report of the survey results. While some praised her firmly set vision to get the district to an "A" rating, others called for her resignation and noting a lack of transparency and communication, labeling her administration style "fear-based."

On April 24, the superintendent was ridiculed at a School Board meeting for her decision to fire 47 teachers at long-struggling Moton Elementary. Teachers and parents in attendance brought with them neon "pink slips" made to look like the termination letters given to the teachers.

In the past few weeks, more than 250 people have signed an online petition requesting that the School Board remove Romano from her post.

At the next meeting, on May 8, School Board members Susan Duval and Beth Narverud spoke out against Romano's actions at Moton — which caused a rift with Hernando Classroom Teachers Association, the union for instructional staff.

"I'm ready to solve problems," Duval said. "I will also maintain a strong advocacy for leadership that is built on a foundation of trust, integrity and honor."

After apologizing to a packed audience for Romano's actions, Narverud took a similar stance:

"I'm not sure where we go from here, but we've got to do something."

Contact Megan Reeves at Follow @mareevs.