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Hernando School Board, superintendent spar over secretary's proper place

School Board Chairwoman Beth Narverud
School Board Chairwoman Beth Narverud
Published Oct. 5, 2017

BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County school leaders on Tuesday spent nearly two hours debating the location of the School Board secretary's desk, ultimately deciding it will be moved closer to the board's office and further from superintendent Lori Romano.

The talk centered on where the desk should be — then turned to a bigger discussion about who should decide where that is.

Board Chairwoman Beth Narverud suggested the change at an informal meeting, after three weeks ago finding the School Board office at district headquarters had been moved without notice.

At the meeting, Narverud told board members that their secretary Kelly Pogue's current spot inside the superintendent's office suite presents concerns about privacy and accessibility, especially without the board's presence. Both concerns are reminiscent of criticisms about Romano's management style brought to light in a recent districtwide survey of her performance.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Hernando school leaders question value of evaluation of superintendent

When Narverud first suggested that Pogue should instead move near board offices, the board was split.

Quick to agree was board member Susan Duval, followed by board member Linda Prescott, who echoed Narverud's privacy concerns but offered up a compromise in which Pogue's office could be relocated to an office between the two spaces. Board members Mark Johnson and Gus Guadagnino both gave a hard no, Johnson later changing his mind.

"This is definitely passing the line of micromanagement," Guadagnino said, throwing his hands in the air multiple times through the meeting. "I haven't heard one thing that says the process of work would be better by making this change. What is it that we are reaching for here?"

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Guadagnino says he was 'embarrassed' by discord over survey of superintendent

Guadagnino, the only board member to recuse himself from the survey of Romano, called Narverud's idea "ridiculous" and "a waste of time." But she said her reasons were simple.

"She is the board's secretary, so she should be housed near the board," Narverud said, adding that she has been asking for the switch for nearly three years but has been met with resistance from Romano.

In a prepared statement to the board, Narverud laid out the time line. She said after former board secretary Iris McNeal, whose office was in the School Board suite, resigned in 2015, Pogue was hired and placed in the superintendent's suite.

Narverud said for two years in a row — both when Guadagnino and Matt Foreman served as chairman — she asked that Pogue be moved closer to the board's quarters. Both times Romano refused, she said, and told her the decision is one traditionally left up to the board chairperson.

At the meeting, Romano fired back at Narverud's claims, calling them "inaccurate," and said the location of Pogue's desk "is absolutely a board decision."

"If you want to talk about facts related, I am more than happy to do that," the superintendent said.

When elected chairwoman in November, it was Narverud's chance to make the change herself. But she said Romano again refused, and instead offered up space for the board to move into her office suite near Pogue. Soon after that, Narverud came in to find the board's office had moved.

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"A few weeks ago without consult or courtesy, the School Board offices were relocated ... again separating us from the School Board secretary," Narverud said at the meeting. "As chairwoman, I exercise my right to instruct the superintendent, who works for us, to have the School Board secretary office relocated."

After discussion, the board reached a consensus, with everyone but Guadagnino agreeing the offices will move immediately.

After the meeting, Narverud said Romano's actions "validate some of the results found in the survey. ... It's supportive of it."

Contact Megan Reeves at mreeves@tampabay.com. Follow @mareevs.

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