BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando School Board’s first evaluation of Superintendent Lori Romano was mostly positive, but a discussion of her performance during a workshop this week resulted in a loud clash among board members.
Under Romano’s contract, school board members were to provide input during a private meeting with Romano before this week’s workshop, when the board spoke publicly.
Each school board member followed protocol before Tuesday’s workshop, except John Sweeney.
“My evaluation is to accept the wisdom and consensus of evaluation,” Sweeney said. “My evaluation is the same as the group’s.”
Board Vice Chair Dianne Bonfield immediately objected.
“Administrators are required to do evaluations of people they’re in charge of,” she said. “Isn’t the board required to evaluate the superintendent?”
School Board Attorney Dennis Alfonso acknowledged that Sweeney’s approach was “unorthodox,” but said that it did not meet a legal requirement for “actionable harm,” meaning that the board could proceed with the public discussion.
“No harm, no foul,” Alfonso said.
School board member Matt Foreman said that he didn’t agree with Sweeney’s approach.
“None of us do,” School Board Member Cynthia Moore said.
Foreman said, however, that Sweeney had the right to do the evaluation in the manner that he chose.
Sweeney said that he didn’t want to say anything negative publicly.
“There’s things out there,” he said. “For the good of the board and the district, I’m accepting” the other board members’ evaluations.
“It’s the high road to take,” he said.
Bonfield wasn’t satisfied.
“There are policies and procedures in place, and they’re not being followed,” she said. “No individual board member has the right to do this. We have our own morality and ethics. This is absolutely outrageous.”
That’s when Sweeney mentioned an investigation into allegations that he circumvented procedures in having some of his son’s grades changed at Springstead High School.
“There’s been a request for a FERPA (Federal Family Education Rights and Privacy Act) hearing and an ongoing fact-finding investigation,” Sweeney said. “I’m going along with the board for the good of the order.”
Romano thanked the board for “an amazing year.”
“I’m humbled and proud regarding your comments on my performance,” she said. “I appreciate the time you took, both for the positive comments and (for noting) the things that I can work on as a rookie superintendent.”
To Sweeney, Romano said: “Your role as a parent and board member has been crossed. I truly would value your feedback.”
“I didn’t ask you to tell me what my role is,” Sweeney said.
“There clearly are issues that you and Mrs. Bonfield have discussed that I’m not aware of,” she said. “I thank those members who did take the time to meet with me.”
Before adjourning the meeting, Board Chairman Gus Guadagnino told Romano that she was doing “an excellent job.”
“You’ve led the schools and brought the community together,” he said.