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Tuesday, Mar 31, 2015

Contract decision expected soon


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It only took a matter of minutes for the Hernando County School Board to extend its last offer to Lori Romano after calling a special meeting to flesh out the terms of her superintendent contract.

If that’s any indication the board wants to finalize a contract as early as possible, then it seems there’s at least one aspect neither party has to play hardball over.

“Everybody wants to wrap it up,” said Romano’s legal counsel, Thomas Gonzalez, of Thompson, Sizemore, Gonzalez & Hearing, P.A. “Dr. Romano is obviously very, very anxious to start, and hopefully the thing can be completed pretty soon.”

During the second round of negotiations, Board Chairman Matt Foreman and General Counsel Dennis Alfonso offered Romano a salary amount of $115,000 for a two-year contract.

“We did come to some level of comfort for life insurance, medical insurance, with health insurance for her and reimbursement up to $833 per month for her husband and family,” Alfonso said. “They negotiated down $3,500 for the relocation package, and up to $500 per month for telephone and car allowance.”

Romano countered that offer, asking for a $125,000 salary with benefits, for a total package of $150,000 annually. Foreman said that was $10,000 more than he was comfortable with and was the reason he called a special meeting Tuesday.

The school board then passed a motion 4-1 to allow contract negotiators to proceed with a starting pay offer of $115,000 for Romano, and with a $5,000 increase each of the two years thereafter. She would begin her prospective second term at $125,000.

Gonzalez said thatwhen he received the board’s most recent offer by telephone, the conditions of that offer were aligned to what the board discussed at the special meeting.

“The board did have a discussion of the salary, and did make an offer or position known and that’s what’s under consideration,” Gonzalez said. “Basically those were the parameters of the offer as I understood it. With what we have now, she’s considering the offer following the board meeting.”

That could include the board allowing several requests Romano made to alter the language of the two most recent superintendents’ contracts.

One area concerned termination of employment, which was to include a pre-determination of cause meeting where she 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.

Romano also requested that should the board cast a super-majority vote of 4-1 and find cause to terminate her contract, that she not be liable to pay a liquidated damage provision of up to $25,000 for the district’s efforts to replace her, as is specified in current and past superintendent contracts.

Romano hasn’t yet decided to accept or counter the board’s offer, Gonzalez said, but he expects that will happen “very soon.”

Likewise, Foreman said he’s expecting to hear back within the next couple days.

Romano could not be reached for comment.

The state standard for elected superintendent positions is $123,500. The Hernando County superintendent position was advertised at an annual salary of $100,000-$130,000, not including benefits, which would be negotiated separately.

(352) 544-5271

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