Which will lead our schools?

Today each of the five candidates will be interviewed for an hour before the board.

Published March 15, 2007

BROOKSVILLE - There was soft music playing in the Hernando County School Board room, and sparkling cider flowing from a little fountain.

But despite the relaxed ambience, the stakes were high at a Wednesday night reception for five candidates who want to succeed retiring superintendent Wendy Tellone.

Beginning at 8:30 a.m. today, the five will be interviewed in hourlong public sessions before the board. The board could vote on a finalist as early as tonight.

The reception provided school staff and members of the public with their first opportunity to chat up those candidates, all of whom could be seen in animated discussions across the crowded room. Earlier, the five went on a daylong tour of district schools.

Wayne Alexander, a director of school operations and human resources in Connecticut, admitted to "a little bit" of culture shock coming from the frozen North, but also many reminders of his days teaching in Sarasota.

"I saw a lot of wonderful things going on today in schools," he said, mentioning the vocational programs at Nature Coast Technical High School.

"Some of this is pretty sophisticated stuff," agreed Ray Kwak, a superintendent from Haledon , N.J., pointing to magnet school programs such as Chocachatti Elementary School's arts programs. "You don't see many of those at this level."

Across the room, Duval County principal Lorenda Tiscornia and Brevard County area superintendent David Piccolo were talking with parents and board members, while Broward area superintendent Harry J. La Cava held forth with board member Dianne Bonfield and teachers' union president Brian Phillips.

"If I see an issue in Broward, it's here too," observed La Cava, citing the state's mandate to reduce class size still further next year. "If we wait too long to prepare, you're going to be behind the eight ball."

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