Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Pasco County School Board member stops private meetings with district administration

Before School Board meetings, the Pasco County school district administration likes to brief board members separately and privately about agenda items and answer questions that might arise.

The idea, in part, is to cut down on surprises.

Board member Steve Luikart has suggested another goal is to lessen the need for debate at the public sessions. And so after more than seven years in office, with just a few months before his retirement, the frequent administration critic has stopped attending the sit-downs.

"I told them, 'Make it a public meeting where we all hear what is being said to every one of us,'" Luikart said. "I don't go to those meetings any more."

A retired teacher and administrator of more than three decades, Luikart often has found himself on the losing end of votes where he has argued for a position that the community supports but the administration does not.

He has been a lone vote against budgets, attendance zone changes and the repurposing of Ridgewood High, among other items, after raising pointed questions and having his concerns brushed aside.

Luikart said he does not need to go to a meeting with as many as 10 district staff to tell him why recommendations look like they do, and to ask for his backing.

He applauded recent steps by others of his colleagues, most specifically board member Colleen Beaudoin, for asking questions publicly and pressing for changes to staff proposals. The most recent example has been over testing timing and scoring.

Such a discourse helps improve policy and procedure, Luikart said, adding that he plans to continue questioning the administration during the meetings leading to his final one in October.

After that, Luikart added, he doesn't expect to just fade away. When issues are important enough, he said, "I know the value of a yellow [speaker's] card and three minutes."

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