SPRING HILL, FLORIDA — A Florida superintendent is keeping his job amid calls from local lawmakers to have him dismissed.
The Hernando County School Board voted 3–2 on Tuesday in favor of Superintendent John Stratton keeping his job, despite opposition from state legislators Sen. Blaise Ingoglia (R-Spring Hill), Rep. Jeff Holcomb (R-Spring Hill) and Rep. John Temple (R-Wildwood).
“It is clear to us that Superintendent Stratton has lost the confidence of parents, grandparents and our community,” the lawmakers said in a joint statement on Tuesday. “We can no longer sit back and allow the Hernando County school system to make national news for its poor decisions, lack of transparency and accountability, and its contempt for parental rights.
“Whether it is pornographic material in our schools, not notifying parents when their children may have been around an alleged pedophile, or allowing a teacher back in the classroom after threatening to kill students, it is clear to us that change is needed, and it is needed now.”
More than 600 people attended the public meeting, according to WFLA. The meeting lasted close to nine hours and ended after 2 am.
TRANS TEACHER SHOOTING INCIDENT
On March 24, Ashlee Renczkowski, a former teacher at Fox Chapel Middle School in Hernando County, allegedly told a colleague that he wanted to shoot some of his students due to their poor performance.
Renczkowski – who changed his name from Alexander to Ashlee in 2021 – was also upset by a negative Facebook post someone made about his lifestyle choices, an incident report from the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office noted.
Renczkowski was allowed to return to the classroom the next day after a sheriff’s deputy and school district mental health coordinator both determined Renczkowski should not be considered an immediate threat to himself or others.
KEEPING PARENTS IN THE DARK
The district did not inform parents about the incident, however. They learned about it two weeks later via a local news reporter named Tom Lemons.
Lemons says district spokesperson Karen Jordan initially “denied that anything happened at all and even questioned the veracity [of] my sources.” Jordan did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Lemons also claims the Sheriff’s Office denied involvement with the incident before later backtracking and releasing the incident report. The Sheriff’s Office did not immediately return a request for comment.
When irate parents addressed Stratton at the next school board meeting, he refused to disclose details about the incident.
“I need you to trust me,” Stratton told the parents at the time.
After national media outlets picked up the story on April 13, Stratton claimed that the release contained details “not previously known by the district.”
However, the sheriff’s report indicates Renczkowski spoke to district staff members on the day of the incident.
“Were there mistakes made? Sure. Absolutely,” Stratton said on Tuesday. “Have changes been made to our policies and procedures? Yes.”
“I understand people being upset about Fox Chapel,” he added. “I understand criticism for not communicating.”
Four teachers in Hernando County schools have been removed from their classrooms for various issues this semester, R News reports.
A Winding Waters K-8 art teacher was removed earlier this month after she allegedly called a student homophobic and tore up one of his drawings after he refused to agree with her LGBTQ viewpoints.
Another Winding Waters teacher was suspended in May after she showed a Disney movie that features discussions about sexual preferences to her fifth-grade students.
A teacher aid in a West Hernando Middle School classroom reportedly hoisted a rainbow LGBTQ pride flag for the majority of the school year.
“We can’t function this way, there’s too many mishaps,” board member Shannon Rodriguez said. “I do agree [with parents] that we’ve had no leadership here. I do agree that it has been complete chaos.”