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  1. The Education Gradebook

Evaluations show solid support for Hernando school superintendent

Published May 29, 2016

BROOKSVILLE — Hernando School Board member Susan Duval's sharply critical evaluation of superintendent Lori Romano last year left Romano with a narrow majority of supporters on the board.

That support was solidified this month when four of five board members — including Duval — submitted favorable reviews of Romano's performance.

The board had been scheduled to talk about the evaluations at its last workshop, but the discussion was postponed because board member Beth Narverud had not had a chance to meet with Romano to discuss her unflattering evaluation.

Romano was rated on a grade of one to three in nine categories for a maximum total score of 27.

Members Gus Guadagnino, Matt Foreman and Mark Johnson all gave her a score of 25. Duval's total was 21, while Narverud's was 14.

Narverud gave Romano a 1-point "needs improvement" rating in four categories, including "leadership and district culture" and "labor relations."

Narverud declined to discuss her evaluation in detail until she had a chance to meet with Romano. But she did say her review was not meant as a personal attack, and that she hoped it would lead to a better performance.

"I do my evaluation not to embarrass anyone. I do evaluations to foster improvement," she said. "I think with some modifications in certain areas, we can be a better district — on our way to an A."

Romano declined to comment. Duval, who has repeatedly pushed for a more thorough evaluation process, said that such improvements had allowed for a detailed look at Romano's performance.

Duval said she was impressed by the documentation that Romano provided at a recent School Board workshop to address her performance in all nine categories.

"I can't fault her documentation. It's there," Duval said.

But she is still pushing for a "360 survey," which would gather assessments on Romano's performance from district employees, and which should be available in time for next year's evaluation, Duval said.

"I still really want to hear from employees," she said.

Foreman, Johnson and Guadagnino also said they have seen indicators of a strong performance by Romano, including the recent improvement in the district's grade to a B from a C.

"I think, overwhelmingly, Dr. Romano has done a good job," Foreman said.

The only categories in which Johnson rated Romano's performance as less than outstanding, were "human resources management" and "communications and community relations."

He said there remains a perception that teachers and principals are afraid to speak for fear of retaliation. That is partly due, he said, to Romano's dramatic decisions to release or move several school and district administrators.

That perception will fade, he said, if Romano keeps most of her current leadership roster in place. The shifts of school principals for 2016-17, also released last week, was less dramatic than last year, when reassignments included changes of 14 assistant principal jobs.

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Contact Dan DeWitt at ddewitt@tampabay.com. Follow @ddewitttimes.