At the Pasco County School Board meeting on May 16, there were flowers on the school board’s dais, in front of the seat where the board’s attorney, Dennis Alfonso, normally sat.
Alfonso, the board’s attorney for a quarter-century, lost his longterm battle with cancer, on the weekend before the board’s meeting.
Pasco County Schools Superintendent Kurt Browning paid his respects to Alfonso during the board’s session.
“Dennis had battled cancer for a good number of years,” Browning said. “He fought the good fight, until Saturday morning, early.”
The superintendent recalled that in his previous role, as Florida’s Secretary of State, Alfonso was one of the first attorneys to sue him, over the 2000 Election.
He characterized Alfonso as a dear friend, who was devoted to Pasco County Schools.
“He loved this district. His wife, Nancy (who also serves as the board’s attorney), loves this district. They raised their kids here and he was invested in this district,” Browning said.
The superintendent said he didn’t always agree with Alfonso, but he added that he will dearly miss him.
He recalled a phrase that Alfonso frequently used, when the attorney was about to reject one of Browning’s ideas.
“He’d say, ‘You know, I love you like a brother … But you can’t do what you want to do.’”
School board members also offered their condolences.
School board chairwoman Megan Harding began the meeting by offering a prayer for Alfonso’s family.
“Dennis has given our school district such wise counsel for over 25 years. I know, for me, he’s always been there to answer my questions, a sound mind — always made sure that we were following the law, within our district.”
Al Hernandez, the newest member on the board, said he didn’t know Alfonso as well as his colleagues, but he looked to him for guidance.
“I can tell you that as a new board member, the second phone call I got was from Dennis — talking about what I needed to do and what I shouldn’t be doing.
“He was definitely somebody I could call. Clearly, he is going to be missed.”
School board member Cynthia Armstrong said she frequently kidded Alfonso about how long it took him to answer a question.
“There was no short answer. With Dennis, what we knew is that we were going to understand every aspect of that answer and all of the nuances, and all of the different ways of looking at it. That just made it so valuable to us to have him as a board attorney.
“He was such a caring person. He cared so much for our district and for our students,” Armstrong said.
School board member Colleen Beaudoin struggled to maintain her composure, as she spoke about Alfonso’s contributions to the school district.
“Dennis was always available, to answer questions and to talk through concerns. He spent many evenings and weekends on the phone.”
He was particularly helpful during the COVID shutdown during the spring and summer of 2020, said Beaudoin, who was chairwoman at that time.
“It was a difficult time and I’m eternally grateful that he was at my side,” she said.
School board member Alison Crumbley described Alfonso this way: “He was kind and he was calm and he was great to have as our board attorney. He is going to be so terribly missed.”
Published May 31, 2023