6 vying to be next school chief

The School Board picks six finalists, who will visit for a tour, a reception and interviews next month.

Published February 16, 2007

BROOKSVILLE - Six finalists will make their case on March 15 to lead the Hernando County school district, in what one School Board member said could be a contentious marathon.

"It's not a pleasant process," said board member Jim Malcolm. "Some people can be stubborn, and I happen to be one of them."

Thursday's workshop session seemed to bear that out, with board members arguing over both the scope and the details of the search process to replace retiring superintendent Wendy Tellone.

Each board member offered a list of finalists, with Malcolm arguing to bring just three candidates to the county for interviews and John Sweeney asking for teleconference interviews with 10.

Only one candidate, Broward County area superintendent Harry J. La Cava, appeared on everyone's list. Other candidates mentioned at least three times included David Piccolo, an area superintendent from Brevard County, and Craig Bangtson, a former superintendent from Kentucky and Georgia.

Malcolm asked board members to consider interviewing local candidate Ken Pritz, Hernando's executive director of facilities and support services, but there were no other takers.

Board member Dianne Bonfield said she had done some of her own reference checking in recent weeks and argued strongly to include New Jersey superintendent Ray Kwak.

"One thing I noticed, when colleagues spoke of him, there was emotion in their voice," Bonfield said, "the kind of emotion they might almost have for a family member."

Those comments ran counter to the recommendations of board consultant Wayne Blanton, who said he had found that Kwak possessed "no real public relations skills."

Board members agreed to fly candidates to Hernando on March 14 for a tour and a reception, with interviews and a possible board vote on the 15th.

They disagreed sharply over the tour, with Sandra Nicholson saying candidates shouldn't have contact with staff members before the interviews and Chairman Pat Fagan saying it didn't matter.

And Malcolm said his colleagues might come to regret their decision to invite so many candidates, terming it "overly ambitious."

"I frankly find it too confusing, and have no desire of interviewing all of these people," he said.

Tom Marshall can be reached at tmarshall@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1431.

Fast Facts:


The finalists

- Craig L. Bangtson - former superintendent, Georgia and Kentucky

- Wayne S. Alexander - school district human resources and operations director, Connecticut

- Ray V. Kwak - superintendent, Haledon, N.J.

- David M. Piccolo - area superintendent, Brevard County

- Harry John La Cava - area superintendent, Broward County

- Lorenda Tiscornia - high school principal, Duval County