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School district appointments fill vacancies in key positions

Published:   |   Updated: May 7, 2013 at 07:53 PM

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The Hernando County School District made three appointments Wednesday to positions that had been vacated by retirement or relocation.

"There's a multitude of considerations," Superintendent of Schools Bryan Blavatt said. "It's almost like coaching: it's getting the right person in the right place. And that's a time-consuming kind of thing. But I'm excited that each of these candidates, in each of these categories, demonstrated the knowledge and the skills that we were looking for."

Retired principal Marvin Gordon was appointed to serve as interim principal at Central High School.

"The committee met on that position and didn't have any candidates they wanted to recommend," Blavatt said. "So we'll have to go back and do it later on."

Former assistant principal at Challenger K-8 Michael Maines will serve as that school's acting principal.

"If everything moves at a positive direction we'll certainly recommend approval for that position for the next school year," Blavatt said. "But that's also dependent upon a couple other factors. His performance, for one."

Mary-Grace Surrena was appointed district director of student services. Surrena threatened a lawsuit against the district in a letter sent in June by attorney Karen Gaffney, alleging gender discrimination after not being reappointed to the position in May.

Surrena was replaced by Felita Lott.

"Mary-Grace Surrena is a wonderful person," Blavatt said at the time. "There's nothing personal in this at all."

Blavatt also said then that Surrena had been offered another position, but turned it down because it represented a demotion.

Jim Knight, who preceded Surrena as director of student services, urged during a June school board meeting that the superintendent be investigated for what he called questionable practices.

He said Surrena's replacement didn't have the proper student services credentials for the position, adding that it's rare an administrator be removed less than a year into the job. Typically, he said, administrators are evaluated and given a chance to improve.

"She has received nothing but excellent evaluations in all the time she's been here and has had a mere eight months on the job before being told that she was too nice and too soft," Knight said at the time. "She's given 24 years in this district and doesn't deserve to be tossed out just to give someone else a promotion."

Blavatt said a position is posted, people apply, then a committee made up of principals and other professionals conducts a screening process for applicants, asking questions and assigns scores.

Three finalists are then selected based on their scores, and then the superintendent or assistant superintendent does the final selection. Following the final selection is another, final interview, and then a determination is made at that point.

"It's a nice process," Blavatt said. "It ensures we do in fact get the best people out there."

The Central High School interim principal position had 14 applicants, and about 12 for the acting principal position at Challenger, Blavatt said.

"A lot of it is based on the best available person at this time," Blavatt said. "I'm not necessarily married to whether a person's in the district or out of the district. It's almost like the draft: you're looking for the best athlete out there." (352) 544-5271

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