Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Former Hernando schools superintendent demands post-termination hearing

Former Hernando County schools superintendent Lori Romano has demanded a post-termination hearing before the School Board to contest its decision to fire her last month.

A letter was emailed to School Board attorney Dennis Alfonso by Romano's attorney, Kathryn McHale of Kathryn L. McHale, LLC in Palm Beach, on July 5.

"This letter will serve as the demand by Dr. Lori Romano for a post-termination hearing," it said. "Dr. Romano is exercising her rights to appeal the actions of the Hernando County School Board."

The board fired Romano on June 12 "for cause," meaning with reason. A termination letter released by the board a few weeks later charged Romano with "ineffective leadership" and communication shortfalls.

It also pointed to her April decision to fire 47 teachers at Moton Elementary, which has long struggled, the public backlash that followed and her attempts to block a districtwide survey to evaluate her performance as superintendent.

According to the employment contract Romano had with the School Board, she could be fired for cause for "misfeasance, malfeasance or corruption in office, incompetency, insubordination, immorality, breach of contract, material breach" or violation of any law.

If the board can prove Romano is guilty of one or more of those things, she could have to pay up to $25,000 in damages, which would go toward the district's cost of finding a new superintendent.

However, the post-termination hearing will serve as Romano's chance to prove the opposite. If no cause for her dismissal is found, she could be entitled to retirement and other benefits.

A date for the hearing has not been set. Alfonso said he plans to suggest dates for it at one of the School Board's meetings on July 24.

McHale is the same attorney that sent a letter to School Board members threatening legal action against two of them the night before Romano was fired.

That letter accused board members Susan Duval and Beth Narverud of breaching Romano's contract and working to "publicly humiliate" her.

Contact Megan Reeves at mreeves@tampabay.com. Follow @mareevs.

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