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Reorganization will leave five Hernando school administrators without jobs

Hernando County school chief Lori Romano has been with the district two years.
Hernando County school chief Lori Romano has been with the district two years.
Published Apr. 20, 2015

BROOKSVILLE — Hernando school superintendent Lori Romano is proposing a sweeping reorganization of top staffers that will leave at least five of them looking for jobs before the start of the 2015-16 school year.

Overall, the reorganization will result in only one less staffer at the district office and save a total of $114,000.

Romano, who will seek the School Board's approval of the plan at a workshop today, declined a request for an interview. School spokesman Eric Williams said the reorganization is designed to cut costs, eliminate under-performing employees and improve efficiency.

"All of the above," Williams wrote in an email response to questions.

"We are a lean staff, so it took a lot of thought to come up with a structure that would be leaner and more efficient in the long run, and more efficient because of the people," Williams added in an interview.

Now that Romano has been with the district two years, he said, "she has a finger on the pulse of who is capable."

Gone under the plan will be both of her assistant superintendents, Sonya Jackson and Alan Cox, who was in charge of academic services and whom Romano recruited from the St. Lucie County School District less than a year ago. Cox replaced Ken Pritz, whom Romano had moved from the job the previous December.

"All (Romano) told me is that it was to save money," Cox said Monday.

Also facing non-renewal under the plan are chief financial officer George Gall, human resources director Sarah Meaker and manager of professional development Cecilia Troutt.

Along with Jackson, they either declined to comment or did not return telephone calls to their offices from the Tampa Bay Times.

The highest-level new position is deputy superintendent, which will be filled by Williams.

The district had difficulty replacing financial officer Desiree Henegar, who left the district in January 2013. Gall's duties will be split between two newly created positions: budget director and director of finance and purchasing. At least one of those will be filled by an existing employee.

The district's financial situation will be desperate in the coming school year, partly because a decade-long half-cent sales tax that expired at the end of 2014; the tax raised about $8 million annually and, depending on the size of this year's state education budget, the district could face a shortfall of several more million dollars, Williams said.

Because of the need to save money, all of the School Board members interviewed said they favored the plan.

"This comes down to money, and I don't think what she's doing is bad," board member Matt Foreman said. "I think what she's doing is playing the cards she's been dealt and moving forward."

Though Hernando has a smaller percent of staffers at the district level than most school systems, board member Beth Narverud said that is the correct place to cut.

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"Any time we can get more money out of the district and into the classroom, it's a good thing," Narverud said.

That's especially true if it improves efficiency, she said.

"Dr. Romano is looking for the soldiers who work."

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

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