Hernando County School Board and incoming superintendent Lori Romano reached a tentative contract agreement Monday.
The school board offered Romano an annual salary amount of $115,000 for a two-year contract, and Romano countered that offer, asking for $117,000, which the board accepted. After her first year, Romano’s salary will increase $3,000, to $120,000, according to board member Dianne Bonfield.
“I am honored and excited about the opportunity to serve the Hernando community as the next Superintendent of Schools, and can’t wait to get started,” Romano said. “I will be taking some accumulated leave during the month of June so we will have a smooth transition to Hernando County.”
Romano requested during negotiations that several terms outlined in past contracts be changed.
One concerned termination of employment, which was to include a predetermination of cause meeting where Romano could cross-examine witnesses prior to the board’s super-majority vote, or four of five votes to terminate her contract. Currently, such a meeting takes place after a simple majority vote to terminate a superintendent’s contract.
This request was not included in the tentative contract, Bonfield said.
“The attorney said it would not be a supermajority needed for termination, so simple majority of three would still be practice,” Bonfield said. “That language they agreed on.”
Romano also requested that, should the board cast a majority vote and find cause to terminate Romano’s contract, that she not be liable to pay a liquidated damage provision of up to $25,000 to fund the district’s efforts to replace her, as is specified in current and past superintendent contracts.
This request was also not included in the tentative contract.
“Then generally what happens is at the end of the first year, at evaluation time with the agreement of the board, there is another year granted, so it seems like a two-year contract with a rollover,” Bonfield said. “We haven’t formally sat down yet, but we will do that this Tuesday, and everything will be laid out to us by the attorney.”
Board Chairman Matt Foreman said at a special meeting last week that Romano’s total contract, between the $115,000 salary and benefits, was valued at around $150,000.
“So that might make that package go up a little,” Bonfield said about the $117,000 contract agreement. “Which I think is reasonable, in the fact of what our surrounding counties pay, and of course for our size.”
Bonfield said the family health benefits in Romano’s contract — up to $6,000 — are not offered to any other employee in the district, and that the contract wording would have to be drafted more like a stipend for that reason.
“We don’t do this for any other employee,” Bonfield said. “It would have to be worded like a stipend. She can use it how she wants to, which we know would be for health insurance, but it’s all in the wording.”
Bonfield also said she’s never seen an incoming superintendent use accrued time from a previous job to get a feel for the district without pay.
“I think that is just a wonderful thing she is doing taking some of her personal leave and so forth to come in June before her contract gets started,” Bonfield said. “Of course then we wouldn’t be paying her anything, because she wants to meet the people and learn the system.”
“She’s excited to get going,” Bonfield added. “But we’ve never had anybody do this before, and I think that’s a real nice gesture on her part.