A superintendent applicant eliminated earlier this month by a search committee was added to a list of five finalists that will be interviewed by the Hernando County School Board in March to replace Bryan Blavatt.
School board members agreed, per the request of board member John Sweeney during a workshop Tuesday, to reinstate superintendent applicant Lori Romano.
"Mr. Sweeney seems to have a passion," board member Dianne Bonfield said. "I went on the record saying if anyone had a passion I would not object."
"We can keep looking until we find the right candidate," Sweeney said. "We don't have the pressure we did in the past."
Search committee member Joe Vitalo made the motion to eliminate Romano as a candidate during the vetting process, citing lack of diversity in experience at the leadership level.
Romano was an executive director at the Florida Department of Education, which Vitalo said was not equivalent to the Hernando County School District's superintendent position.
"She didn't really expound upon her time at DOE, and what she could bring in," Vitalo said. "This is a role where you have to step to the top."
Romano, who is currently Martin County School District's director of adult, secondary and virtual education, was in the news last July after saying her job was being threatened because she did not participate in then-Superintendent Nancy Kline's re-election campaign, alleging the district misappropriated state funds.
Kline lost re-election and replaced as superintendent, and Romano never took legal action against the district, according to new reports.
According to Manatee County Schools, two Hernando County superintendent finalists — Constance Jones, of Estero, and Diana Greene, of Ocala — are also two of six finalists for the superintendent position in Manatee County.
"It looks like Constance Jones has a really good shot at getting the position," Sweeney said.
The applicants will be interviewed by the school board March 13-14 in 75-minute intervals.
Aside from Romano, Greene and Jones, other applicants include Rebecca Fleck, of Sebring, and two administrators from within the district: Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning Ken Pritz and Assistant Superintendent of Student Support Operations Sonya Jackson.
School superintendent is a negotiable, salaried position that pays between $100,000 and $130,000.
At their April 16 meeting, the board will finalize and approve the contract terms of the chosen candidate, who is expected to begin work July 1.