Hernando school board affirms firing of ex-superintendent Lori Romano

After the former superintendent appealed her firing, the board had to decide whether it acted properly back in June.
OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times
Hernando County District Schools Superintendent Lori Romano pleads her case to audience on the firing of the 47 teachers at Moton Elementary during the board meeting. A crowd packs the Hernando County Schools District board meeting just days after the  announcement of 47 teachers at Moton Elementary will have to leave their jobs by the end of the 2018 school year in Brooksville, Florida on Tuesday, April 24, 2018.
OCTAVIO JONES | Times Hernando County District Schools Superintendent Lori Romano pleads her case to audience on the firing of the 47 teachers at Moton Elementary during the board meeting. A crowd packs the Hernando County Schools District board meeting just days after the announcement of 47 teachers at Moton Elementary will have to leave their jobs by the end of the 2018 school year in Brooksville, Florida on Tuesday, April 24, 2018.
Published October 23 2018
Updated October 23 2018

BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County School Board on Tuesday night deemed that it made the right call when it fired former superintendent Lori Romano in June.

The board voted 4-0 in favor of moving forward with Romano's termination, putting to rest a controversy that started when the members fired Romano in June. That launched an appeal process that forced the board to review its own decision to fire her.

The board's fifth member, Gus Guadagnino, missed the meeting because of a family matter. Romano did not attend.

The members spent little time deliberating whether it acted properly in June. The only discussion came when Beth Narverud, Susan Duval and Linda Prescott said they had all read the documentation and attorneys' summations from an Oct. 3 post-termination hearing.

At that meeting, Romano's attorney, Kathryn McHale, argued then that the board didn’t have cause to fire the superintendent as outlined in her employment contract. The contract states she could be fired for “misfeasance, malfeasance or corruption in office, incompetency, insubordination, immorality, breach of contract, material breach” or violation of any law.

Board attorney Tammie Rattray countered that several factors gave the members the cause they needed to end Romano’s contract.

She said Romano’s decision to fire 47 teachers at struggling Moton Elementary School in April — done after the superintendent gave incomplete or inaccurate information to board members about her plans — created “true despair” in the district. She also pointed to Romano’s attempts to block the release of publicly available email addresses to a University of South Florida researcher for a survey of district employees about the superintendent’s performance.

Why Romano decided to appeal the firing is still unclear. She has found a new job as a grant writer with the Pasco County School District. And if the board opts to search for a new superintendent — rather than give the job to interim superintendent John Stratton without conducting a new search — Romano could have to pay up to $25,000 toward those efforts.

With the general election coming on Nov. 6 and two current members, Narverud and board chair Mark Johnson, outgoing, though, it’ll be up to a new school board to make that decision. That also means Tuesday’s vote was the last act of the current board.

Contact Jack Evans at [email protected] Follow @JackHEvans.

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