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Tuesday, Mar 31, 2015

School year will test district

Jeff Schmucker Hernando Today
Published:   |   Updated: May 7, 2013 at 05:29 PM

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By Friday morning, school buses were traveling along routes and making stops throughout Hernando County, although children and teens weren't yet on board to travel to school.

That instead begins Monday. But with new school start times and routes, Superintendent Bryan Blavatt said officials wanted to do a dry run to ensure that buses were arriving at stops and their respective schools on schedule so that things go smoothly on Aug. 20.

"I'm certain there will be some problems. There always are," Blavatt said. "Obviously, there's going to be some adjustment time while everyone gets acclimated to the new start times, traffic getting in and out of schools, etc."

Earlier this summer, school board members approved aligning elementary school start times by having school start at 9:15 a.m. for most all youngsters.

Middle and high schoolers now start at either at 7:15 or 7:30 a.m. — except for the alternative school, Endeavor Academy, which begins at 7:35 a.m.

Despite the difficulties in working with another tight budget this year, he said he's pleased that the school district again managed to not lay off any teachers while some schools are reaping the benefit of technological upgrades, such as the new Winding Waters K-8 school's new iPads that will be made available.

Blavatt added that district officials are looking to expand bandwidth to eliminate connection difficulties.

This year will likely be the last that Blavatt participates in budget and education discussions with the district. He announced last year that after the 2012-13 school year, he would not pursue a contract renewal.

That means at some point, school board members have to begin searching for Blavatt's replacement — something the group last did in 2009.

Despite his plans to leave, Blavatt said he intends to lead the same way he has since he was hired, adding that he will continue to be heavily involved in running the district and helping whoever is hired to transition into the job.

"I only know one way to do things — so this year I'm not going to start doing things differently due to me leaving," he said. "And I've made clear that I'll stay on as long as required if the board doesn't find someone."

However, he said school board members aren't out of the woods yet in terms of the budget. Still on the horizon are concerns pertaining to less state funding.

Blavatt added that it's now more difficult for schools and the district overall to garner high grades stemming from the more rigorous Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test — results of which half of teachers' evaluations also will be based on by 2014.

Last school year, six schools earned A grades while many others stayed the same or fell a letter grade — a trend shared by other Florida schools.

Next year, however, Blavatt said he expects the district to do better.

"I wouldn't be surprised if we have double the number of schools last year earn A's," Blavatt said, adding that high school grades still haven't been announced.

Meanwhile, a big change on the horizon is a new board member, who will be selected during the November general election.

Voters will choose either Gus Guadagnino, owner of Joni Industries and Seaboard Pencil, or Robert Neuhausen, an engineer and manager at Sparton Electronics. Whoever wins will take the place of current board member James Yant, who opted not to run again.

Blavatt said that following the election, he would likely hold another training seminar to clarify both the superintendent's and school board members' roles and responsibilities.

"It'll help with us moving forward so that everyone knows how to work together," Blavatt said. "There's certain do's and don'ts when sitting on a school board. This board has covered all the don'ts. But we'll iron all those out so that we're all ready to face any challenges moving forward." (352) 544-5271

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