News Section: Schools and Education
McGonegal Resigns as Superintendent of Manatee Schools
Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum Bob Gagnon appointed for interim period
BRADENTON – In a surprise turn of events, Manatee County School District Superintendent Tim McGonegal resigned yesterday, effective immediately. McGonegal appointed assistant Superintendent Bob Gagnon as acting Superintendent for the meeting and recommended him as an interim replacement. On Friday, McGonegal admitted that the school district's presented budget was overstated by $8 million, turning a projected surplus into a deficit of between $3.2 – 3.5 million, promising to present a corrective action plan at Monday's meeting. A few days earlier, he had announced his intention to retire, effective February 28. On Friday, McGonegal stated that his retirement was not related to the shortfall. Just hours before Monday's meeting, he submitted a resignation effective the end of the workday.
Board member Bob Gause quickly and presumptively moved to appoint Gagnon, promoted in the middle of last school year from principal at Manatee High to Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum, a promotion also championed by Gause. The motion was interrupted by public comment from school board candidate David “Watchdog” Miner, who is running for the seat being vacated by board chair Harry Kinnan, which will be decided in a runoff between Miner and second place vote getter Robert Moates in November. Miner argued that it was essential that the board not rush into a long-term interim superintendent in light of the recent budget scandal and complete lack of public notice that a temporary superintendent would be hired, suggesting that whomever was appointed agree not to apply for the permanent position.
Mr. Kinnan dismissed the concerns. Board members Julie Aranibar, Karen Carpenter and Barbara Harvey all expressed hesitation to make a long-term decision on short notice. Florida law requires districts to have an acting superintendent at all times, and board attorney John Bowen explained that the board must appoint an interim at Monday's meeting, were they inclined to accept McGonegal's resignation. Bowen responded to questions informing the board that they could appoint an interim for a specific period, for an indefinite period, or until such time that a permanent replacement was found.
Gause's original motion was to appoint Gagnon until a replacement was found and the three members renewed their concerns, at which time Gagnon was asked to speak in order to determine whether he was even interested in accepting the post. Gagnon noted that any agreement to accept the interim position would be at tremendous risk to his professional career given the condition of the district. “You need me, more than I need this,” he told the board. Gagnon said that the initial deal breaker would be whether the board would immediately move to conduct an outside audit by a specialist firm who had never done business with the district in order to determine how the budget shortfall occurred, who knew about it and when and begin the process of restoring public confidence.
Gause restated the motion, amended to increase Gagnon's salary to that of Dr. McGonegal's (an increase of over $5,000 per month) and a guarantee that he would not be “non-renewed” (fired for any reason than cause) in his previous position as assistant superintendent through at least the 2013-14 school year, but maintained the time period as until permanent a superintendent was found. He had difficulty finding a second, with Kinnan ultimately having to provide it, seeming to indicate that a majority did not exist.
Gause again championed Gagnon, warning the board that he might not take less than what he had motioned. Barbara Harvey then asked Gagnon directly if he would be willing to accept the interim position, but give the board until their next regular meeting on September 24 to determine the duration. By that time, the board will have conducted a public workshop with Wayne Blanton, Executive Director, Florida School Boards Association, which had already been scheduled for Tuesday September 18, 3:00 p.m., in order to get guidance moving forward. Gagnon expressed that he did not have a problem with that, but did want to ensure that it was noted that he would have the opportunity to apply for the position, should he decide to. The motion was then amended to include both of those items and passed unanimously. Gagnon was charged with presenting the board with an action plan at the same meeting, for maintaining the curriculum department while serving as interim superintendent.
Guest Op/Ed: Hiding Manatee School Dollars in Plain Sight
Published Friday, July 20, 2012 12:10 am
by Linda Schaich
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