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Superintendent Receives Positive Evaluations from School Board Majority

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In last month’s workshop held by the Hernando County School Board, the evaluation of Superintendent John Stratton was discussed, among other topics. As he is an appointed superintendent, Stratton must receive reviews directly from the school board members themselves. He was regarded favorably by the majority of the board’s five members, but a pair of them, Shannon Rodriguez and Mark Johnson raised concerns about the superintendent’s handling of certain issues.

Prior to the Jan. 23 meeting, the board members completed a handout where the five judged Stratton according to nine different standards. They were then supposed to meet with Stratton privately to review the positives, the negatives, and everything in between of his performance. If the board is unhappy with a superintendent’s abilities, they have the power to fire the educational leader if necessary. Stratton, however, oversees personnel and instruction issues.

“I cannot tell you how many, at the Florida School Board Association, school board members have come up to me and said, ‘We really would like to have your superintendent. You are so fortunate.’ I have heard that from other superintendents and I think that speaks very highly of Mr. Stratton,” Chairwoman Linda Prescott said. “Every time we go out into the community, he gets praise. I think he represents our district well […] It has been an honor and a privilege to serve on this board under Mr. Stratton.”

Prescott pointed out during the workshop that the members have served wildly varying amounts of time with the superintendent in different capacities. The time frames range from Susan Duval’s 25-plus years to approximately one year for Rodriguez. This is to say that Stratton’s “bosses” can change frequently as can the rapport between the six.

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Rodriguez rated Stratton less than positive overall due to his alleged delays in notifying parents during crises. However, Johnson spoke approvingly of the superintendent despite his concerns over Stratton’s communication issues. Here is what the two dissenting members had to say on Stratton:
“I am personally aware of numerous incidents where Mr. Stratton has been notified and has failed to give adequate advice or execution,” Rodriguez said. “Furthermore, in some of the more serious controversies, Mr. Stratton has failed to make appropriate and timely notifications to school board members, staff, and parents. So, for this reason, I cannot in good conscience rate Mr. Stratton more favorably.”

“When it comes to curriculum and planning development, aces. No problem. Ethical? There. When it comes to communicating to the board when there is a hot-button issue going on, especially when it is a major issue, it never comes our way,” said Johnson. “We have a lot that we can do to quell hot-button issues when they arise […] for whatever reason when something major goes down, we get put on the back burner and I just believe that is a fault that needs to be corrected.”

Rodriguez insisted that, during the recent statewide bomb threat, parents should have been notified more quickly. She reasoned that this would have enabled parents to make the choice on whether to remove their children from school during the threat as opposed to administrators making the call. Stratton explained that due process needed to be followed, while Prescott cited possible panic that could have ensued during those uncertain hours.

“We can agree to disagree. I do feel like we are communicating. I do not care what organization you are in; you can always communicate better. Always get better at it, but we are communicating. The staff is falling all over themselves, but what they do not want to do is put out bad information. Sometimes you get the preliminary information out there. Then you do investigate, and you find out and you follow up. We are following up with parents now, too.”

Duval called these comments from Rodriguez “personal attacks” on Stratton and moved for the meeting to be adjourned. Following a statement by Prescott, the factious meeting was brought to a close, with members being generally effusive in their praise of the superintendent with some dissenting holdouts.

Austyn Szempruch
Austyn Szempruch
Austyn Szempruch is a Graduate with Distinction, University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications. He's written numerous articles reporting on Florida Gators football, basketball, and soccer teams; the sports of rugby, basketball, professional baseball, hockey, and the NFL Draft. Prior to Hernando Sun he was a contributor to ESPN, Gainesville, FL and Gator Country Multimedia, Inc. in Gainesville, FL, and Stadium Gale.
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