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  1. Hernando

Hernando County School District gets new administrative jobs, a sign of district's financial health, says superintendent

BROOKSVILLE — Just months after he took the helm of the Hernando County School District, Superintendent John Stratton got approval last week on his first major change: a restructuring plan that adds four jobs and some additional shuffling to the district's administrative ranks.

The move points toward Stratton's vision for the district and, he said, is part of "trying to get back to the baseline." Some of the new jobs existed in the district and were cut during money struggles that plagued the district for much of this decade.

"We're in good financial health right now," he said. "But we also have dire needs in many areas that, over the years, have been cut short."

The highest-ranking new position is an assistant superintendent of teaching and learning, who will oversee curricular administration, student support and principals. A supervisor of college and career programs, another new position, will work under her purview.

Stratton already tapped Gina Michalicka, the executive director of academic services, for the assistant superintendent job. Nobody has been hired yet for the supervisor of college and career programs opening.

The new hires and structure will let stretched-thin administrators focus more on specific subjects. Stratton noted that career and technical education — a major point of emphasis for him and the School Board — is one area that will get attention. It's one of many areas he hopes will grow in the future. He envisions a network of subject-area specialists, probably teachers on special assignment, working directly with the administrators focused on curriculum.

Heather Martin, the district's deputy superintendent, will get a title change and become assistant superintendent of business and support services, as the district returns to the two-assistant-superintendent structure it once used. She will oversee two new positions: director of maintenance and a senior recruiter.

The maintenance director was a "no-brainer," Stratton said, made necessary in part by projects funded by the half-cent sales tax. It will free the director of facilities to focus on new construction, whereas the maintenance director will focus on existing infrastructure. At last week's School Board meeting, Stratton said the maintenance director likely will be an outside hire.

The senior recruiter, a new position for the district, fits with one of Stratton's top priorities: combating the teacher shortage. Tasked with that duty will be Michael Maine, the principal at Spring Hill Elementary.

Maine has been on the district's recruitment and retention committee, and Stratton praised his communication skills, his passion about the district and his willingness to learn from and compete with other school districts. Stratton said Maine will need to build relationships with area businesses, colleges and community associations, all part of making Hernando County an attractive place to move to and stay.

"Once you get here and you live here," he said, "we've got to work together to keep you here, too."

Stratton could see Maine building the position into its own department, he said. He wants growth in the human resources area more generally, and he's looking for private sector ideas on how to make new employees feel prepared and welcomed before they set foot in a school.

In other shifting, Challenger K-8 principal Lisa Cropley will become executive director of student support services, and Jill Kolasa will get a job upgrade from supervisor of student services to director of the student services department. As announced in late March, Lisa Becker will move from human resources director to executive director of business services, with Fox Chapel Middle School principal Ray Pinder becoming human resources director. And Springstead High School principal Carmine Rufa will lead Fox Chapel. That leaves principal jobs open at Springstead, Challenger and Spring Hill.

All will begin their new positions on July 1. Salaries and associated costs for the new positions, plus increases for Kolasa and Cropley, will cost the district about $478,000, according to the proposal the School Board approved.

Stratton has emphasized that new hiring won't start and end at the administrative level. He plans to add staff and faculty across the board, including 14 new full-time teachers and a handful of paraprofessionals for exceptional student education.

Contact Jack Evans at jevans@tampabay.com. Follow @JackHEvans.

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