Residents Outraged Over School Super’s Rogue Actions, Some Calling for Her Immediate Removal
HERNANDO – The Hernando County School Board is making headlines again, after the District School Superintendent, Dr. Lori Romano, failed to notify the public on at least three major issues, which is required by law.
The incidents were brought to light in a Wednesday edition of the Tampa Bay Times, where columnist Dan DeWitt exposed an unannounced HCSB Retreat, held at Silverthorn Country Club.
Dewitt writes “The district held the retreats at Silverthorn Country Club, which charged more than $500 for the day’s meals and meeting room rental, and paid $600 for a private consultant to deliver communications training.” Dewitt also explains “Besides Romano and board members, the retreats include the five highest-ranking district staffers, who have an average annual salary of more than $90,000. Alfonso — who received $165 per hour for Tuesday’s retreat…”
It should also be noted that Romano’s salary is approximately $145,000 with additional monetary incentives. Romano recently vied for a position with the Osceola County School Board, where she could have made between $185,000 and $225,000 per year. Romano accepted a raise in Hernando County after losing her bid for Osceola County.
But the retreat is only one of two other unannounced decisions made by Dr. Romano. DeWitt’s article also explains that Romano moved to end a contract with a private dropout prevention program, Catapult Academy, and institute a new adult high school. Both decisions were made without board approval or public discussion.
But Romano is no stranger to controversy and has a reputation for dodging questions and being less than transparent with the community and media inquiries.
We spoke to citizen advocate Danielle Underwood regarding the issue who said “There has been no transparency with the school district to the public, the whole time she has been on the board.” Underwood says “It’s a shame that when parents attend school board meetings that they have to pry information from Romano.” Underwood explains, ‘During school board meetings a parent has 3 minutes to say what they want and then shut up and sit down – the board never answers questions or follows up with concerns.”
I asked underwood what she thinks should happen to Romano – she replied “The board should analyze the decisions and wrong doings that she has committed and decide what they need to do. If she has breached her contract then she should be removed.” But Underwood believes Romano should face criminal charges due to violating the State’s Sunshine Laws. “I personally think it should be brought to the state attorney’s office because their attorney has already admitted that she has violated the law.” In DeWitt’s article, School Board Attorney Dennis Alfonso said “…the failure to run a legal advertisement notifying the public of the gathering was an oversight caused partly by its timing, shortly after the week of spring break.” Underwood says “That’s like me saying to a deputy if I get pulled over for DUI that I got into a fight with my husband and that I should be excused.”
RNRF asked Romano and board members for comment but we have not received a reply. Underwood says during a conversation with board member Beth Narverude, she was told that Romano could not be voted out of her position unless she breached her contract. Underwood believes that if a vote were held today, board members Beth Narverude, Linda Prescott, and Susan Duval would all vote to have her removed.
Over the last three years RNRF‘s requests for interviews with Romano have all been denied. In most cases we never even receive direct quotes from Romano unless it is regarding something positive with the district. The District’s Public Information Officer, Karen Jordan is the only point of contact with the district and only provides basic public information upon request. Conversely, The Board of County Commissioners has always been transparent with RNRF, even in the face of controversy.
Pam Everett, another outspoken citizen advocate, put together a petition that calls for the removal of Superintendent Dr. Romano (Follow this link). Everett says “As Hernando County taxpayers we feel she has failed her community in the leadership of Superintendent” and has asked for her immediate removal.
The First Amendment Foundation in Tallahassee is aware of the potential violations but it is not known what action, if any, will be taken against Dr. Romano.