Hernando County School Board, District 4
Voters should expect a tight race in the Tuesday, Aug. 26, primary between the three gentlemen vying for the District 4 seat on the Hernando County School Board.
"Gentlemen" is the key word here.
All three - Gene Magrini, Robert Neuhausen and James C. Yant - are class individuals with one main goal in mind: to serve their community by ensuring the best quality public education for the children of Hernando County.
It's not often that a political race features the caliber of individuals in this contest. It's a shame, really, that two of the three will be denied the ability to serve on the school board following this election cycle.
Voters have a tough decision, and one that may result in a runoff for the Tuesday, Nov. 4, general election. If one of the candidates in this nonpartisan race doesn't receive the votes of 50 percent plus one of the electorate who cast ballots, the top two vote-getters will move on to the general election where a simple majority will determine who'll represent District 4 for the next four years.
That being said, it's the recommendation of the Hernando Today editorial board that voters elect Robert Neuhausen to the District 4 seat.
Neuhausen, a 40-year-old engineer who has worked the past 10 years for Sparton Electronics in Hernando County, is intensely connected to his community. He has served as a coach, a member of the YMCA Advisory Board and as a Boy Scout and Girl Scout leader. He listed his wife as his "most admired" person, and the couple has three children in the Hernando County school system.
Neuhausen also volunteers in his children's schools and has developed a close relationship with many teachers and administrators in the district.
More importantly, Neuhausen understands the myriad and difficult issues facing the school district and has concrete recommendations to ensure continued success despite anticipated funding woes and struggles to meet educational requirements. He has the communication skills necessary to convey his message and build consensus as well as an upfront honesty rarely found in other political arenas.
Neuhausen believes that open communication with all partners in education is critical to the school district's success. He encourages teachers, parents and students to have a voice in the decision-making process of the board, and is a critic of what he sees as the district's inadequate job of conveying information during workshops and meetings.
"I have been to many Tuesday night meetings where there were less than a dozen citizens (sometimes just myself and one or two other individuals) and a few workshops where virtually no one from the public attended," Neuhausen told Hernando Today's editorial board. "The Tuesday night meeting could be made more accessible and relevant by bringing in some to the schools and/or providing a better forum for the public to be heard, such as a town hall meeting. I believe that if a larger representation of the community is involved, advised of the proper information and given easier access to meetings, there would be less confusion and missed opportunities between all parties involved."
We couldn't agree more.
Neuhausen has also been an open critic of Superintendent Wayne Alexander, whom he says has acted too quickly on major changes and without necessary input from other administrators and teachers in the school district. His actions and intimidating leadership style have damaged morale in the school system, Neuhausen says.
"It's almost like a dictatorship," Neuhausen says.
"I think he's failed. You have to lead so people will follow."
However, Neuhausen says he has no plans of getting rid of Alexander and is willing to work with the superintendent to improve his approach.
That's the kind of leadership that will bring positive change in both Alexander and the way the school district is operated.
With drastic budget cuts on the horizon, Neuhausen says school board members must ask a lot of questions and understand the budget process completely.
"We're going to have to cut where it doesn't actually touch students," Neuhausen says. "We have to have noneducational type cuts. We're going to be looking at drastic cuts. But don't cut within the classroom or things that touch students directly."
As an example, Neuhausen said the 96 percent cut in library book funding was "outrageous."
"To me, that's unacceptable," he says.
Neuhausen also said that the administration and board erred by adopting a new dress code this summer and then dropping it at the last minute.
"Get the community involved. Communication is the biggest factor in any institution," Neuhausen says. "There was no input from teachers. What really are the issues? I like the idea of a uniform policy, but I want to get more input from the teachers. K through 8, keep it. High school: Find out why we need it."
Neuhausen also said he is a strong advocate of magnet schools.
"Magnet schools attract the parents who want to go above and beyond," he says. "Math skills have flourished."
However, Neuhausen isn't happy with how the superintendent and board handled immediately moving all the gifted students to the new Explorer K-8 facility.
"Quite a few parents were left out," Neuhausen says. "Why was this an all-or-nothing thing? We left out half of the gifted students in our county. We should have left some level of gifted classes at those schools. They needed community support for that program, and they lost it. It's going to flounder the first few years."
Neuhausen says the district should put some of the gifted classes back in the schools for the time being.
"Let's not leave anybody out," he says.
Building consensus among parents, teachers, administrators and the general public is the key to success of our school district. We believe Neuhausen has the leadership ability and communication style to help foster that kind of enthusiastic environment in our school district.
Hernando County voters would be well-served by having Richard Neuhausen on the school board. They should cast their ballots for him in the Tuesday, Aug. 26, primary.