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News Section: Schools and Education



New School Board Seems Poised to Deliver on Transparency

Published Tuesday, December 11, 2012 12:00 pm

BRADENTON – The new school board showed hints of what looked like a stronger commitment to transparency and deliberation at its second regular meeting Monday night. Discussions on agenda items carried on longer than the ones in most meetings from the past several months. Though the meeting was also marked by tense and awkward debate between board members, many of the talks on Monday night were substantiative. Topics included two agenda items that, after much deliberation, were voted for removal in order to allow for further discussion in a future meeting.

 

The first of those was item 15, commented on by Linda Schaich, specifically in regards to the item's implied need for new elevator installations. Mrs. Schaich told the board that she had consistently been unable to get information on exactly how many elevators the district currently has, and questioned whether the invoices the district received for elevator inspections had a correct total number of elevators - thus, whether the district was being overcharged for inspections and repairs on elevators. "I really feel that we need to have a tally of how many (elevators) there are," Mrs. Shaich said. 

 

She then gave an example of what she felt the board should be concerned about. "There have been times when a person is doing the repairs would pad the bill, and the person approving the bill would approve it - and I think that needs to be looked into, since nobody can come up with the number of elevators," she said. The board eventually moved, with some push from board member David Miner and a recommendation from interim superintendent David Gayler, to sever the item from the agenda in order to investigate the matter further.  

 

Another item that was removed for further deliberation was Approval of the 2012-2013 School Improvement Plans, which are to be "written at each school to address that school's needs regarding State goals, School Board goals and District priorities." Linda Neeley was allowed a public comment on the item, and protested that parents had not been given adequate involvement by the district on the School Improvement Plan. "They know their children the best. They deserve a seat at the (SIP)," she said. She went on to say that the public had not been notified at all of a recent SIP meeting at Braden River Middle School. 

 

After Ms. Neeley concluded her remarks, Mr. Miner brought up removing the item in order to allow further review. After Dr. Gayler referred to Bob Gagnon on that particular, the assistant superintendent of curriculum mostly defended the current system, saying that schools do make an effort to review SIP plans with parents, though acknowledging that perhaps some schools do a better job of doing so than others. After discussion concluded, Board Chair Karen Carpenter made a motion to remove the item from the agenda; the motion passed 5-0.

 

Both items will be on the agenda for 2013's first board meeting in January. 

 

To view the full agenda from Monday's meeting, click here.

Join the conversation post Facebook comments here or on our site at the bottom of article.

 

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The District has discouraged parents from particpating in assisting in writing the SIP (School Improvement Plan) by holding a district wide writing of it during the summer and doesn't make any effort to include the SAC (School Advisory Council) as they are all in recess over the summer. The SIP is the directing document for what happens at a particular school. The Board Members had trusted on faith for far too long with the District. The public members of the SAC are to be the majority on the SAC Council. Please check out the schools in your neighborhood, volunteer for the needs of all our school children.
Help find out why remediation isn't helping those students in the bottom.
Posted by Linda Neely on December 13, 2012
 

It is interesting to watch these board meetings then read a synopsis of the event; in this case, we do have the agenda item which was removed for further discussion. What isn't mentioned (and I am not being critical of the article), is that it is mentioned that Linda Schaich had been seeking answers to the questions of elevators and inspections for months. Request after request after request - and no substantive or complete response from the School District.

Then, by some miracle, on the night of the approval, the data was easily presented! Facts, figures! Readily available and offered.

So, why didn't the School District simply respond to Linda during any of the previous requests for this data?

I fear that transparency has become one of those murky and inconvenient tasks that this district historically and repeatedly ignores, whether from the public or from Board members seeking clarity of facts (remember all the problems some Board members had in getting budget details?).

Simple requests should not come down to a number of requests then answered months later at a Board meeting. Perhaps if the district began treating the public as partners rather than adversaries, solutions can be found to resolve most of the issues it faces.

As things stand now, the community has little trust for the district - and that is something the district Administrators caused.
Posted by James Ferguson on December 12, 2012
 

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