Thursday, August 16, 2018

Lynn Gray’s side of the Hillsborough County School Board mess

Seeking to explain the Hillsborough County School Board's ongoing Facebook message scandal from her perspective, member Lynn Gray sent an email to Tampa Bay Times Metro columnist Sue Carlton. 

She thought it would be kept private. She was wrong. The Times considers all communications that elected officials send us to be public record.

In the email, Gray wrote that she is not a career politician and ran for her districtwide position in 2016 "to serve our children and parents as an educational advocate and public servant."

She referred to her adversaries on the board as "girls." As in:  "When I got on the board I had no idea that three of the girls would continually harass and undermine me on the dais and also with the initiatives I put through."

Member April Griffin, she wrote, although she referred to her with the initials AG "never spoke to me the entire two years I have been on the board."

Member Melissa Snively, Gray continued, "was continually harassed by those girls during her four year tenure." By Gray's description, Snively was so rattled at one board meeting that "her hands were shaking and she could barely speak." Member Susan Valdes, she wrote, similarly using the initials SV, once told Gray to "F…Off."

Gray laid out a case that the board majority – Griffin, Valdes, Cindy Stuart and chairwoman Sally Harris – have launched sustained attacks against the other three to protect their ability to win votes.  "The Florida School Board Association is totally aware of our dysfunction; and there is nothing I can do until hopefully new and trustworthy board members get elected," she wrote.

Gray added that she plans to issue a public apology at the board's next meeting on Tuesday, and here is why she is apologizing: Attention that has been paid to the conflict since last month's publication in the La Gaceta newspaper of Snively's Facebook messages has detracted from urgent issues that the district faces as it seeks to operate within a tight budget and teach more than 200,000 students.

"Our children deserve better than gossip and dissension among their school board leaders," Gray wrote.

Tuesday's meeting begins at 3 p.m.

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