Lerner airs concerns about Gilzean's Graduates
Here's a follow-up to this story about Pinellas County school board member Glen Gilzean's new initiative, "Gilzean's Graduates."
Under the program, which Gilzean said is one of the most meaningful things he's done since joining the board in January, Gilzean plans to write letters of recommendation for 75 high school students with middle-of-the-road grades who may need a boost getting accepted to their college of choice.
On Tuesday, board member Linda Lerner aired out some of her concerns about the program, including questioning the name, during the board's workshop.
Gilzean, who is running to retain his appointed District 7 seat, said just one word during the discussion. He did send the email attached below to board members following Lerner's initial request for more information about the program.
Today, Gilzean told the Gradebook that Lerner has a right to talk about her opinions. But he said he doesn't see anything changing about Gilzean's Graduates as a result.
"This is America," Gilzean said. "Everyone, if they want to have a concern, they can. I don't really have a response."
He said he was already planning to expand the program to include other mentors and to register himself with the district as a mentor.
It's kind of hard to explain what concerns Gilzean's fellow board members have about the program other than being surprised to hear of it, so we're sharing a transcript of the actual workshop discussion for you to read yourself:
Lerner: I know we don’t have much time, but I do want to commend Glen for his true dedication for helping our students. And I believe whether you’re elected or not, you’re still going to be around. I'm sure about that. I think there are things related to when a board member has an initiative that we really need to do a better job as a board to talk about it. And especially as a board need to talk about it. I’ll just get to a couple of things that I had concerns about.
Number one was the name: Gilzean’s Graduates. I don’t know who’s idea that was. But it’s like, I had a difficulty with that. I think that what you’re doing here can really provide a system mentoring program for AVID students. Especially the students that maybe aren’t doing so well . . . But you as a young, successful, articulate, bright, black man, is obviously a great role model. Again, I think you have good intentions, but it wasn’t exactly clear to me, what was this? And it sounds to me that when you meet one-on-one with students, it's mentoring. And that when I mentored a number of years ago, we had to register and we had to take a course. That’s in policy. This is not anyone’s fault, Glen, it really isn’t. It’s just something to really, um, look at.
Those are really probably the two main things. And, can I ask you a question, was the idea that, you’re going to meet with the group and that’s great –- Oh, the press release! You know, we just don’t send -- Many of us have done many things in schools. I can just think of Robin (Wikle), everything with NOPE. Like, I said, Robin, you need to talk about it because I went to a presentation and I talked about it. And she said, well, I’ve been leery of it.
Robin Wikle: Right. Right, I didn’t want to –-
Lerner: But we certainly can share what we’re doing. Absolutely. And then if a reporter says, 'Robin, are you making any presentations?', that’s one thing. But I, again, it’s to the board to decide. And again, there’s no blame anywhere.
Lerner: I know (former school board member) Nina Hayden, when she was with ... the public defender, and they’re right across from Bayside (High School), she got together, I don’t know, 20 or 30 attorneys for mentoring … But Glen, a board member, we only have power within the seven of us, you know, voting. But absolutely, when we are looking at doing something positive for the district, we do have an impact. So, I just had to say those things. I’m convinced that your heart is in the right place, and it’s not to blame anyone, but I think it’s up to the board to say we need to be clearer, probably, with ourselves and certainly with a new board member.
Carol Cook: I think this really could be a procedural thing that we look at carefully. There’s always a struggle of 'What are our board reports?'. And what are they? What should they include? I think there should be a broad rule of thumb that if it’s an announcement of some sort that the board members could maybe hear it first in a workshop setting. There may be times when there are topics that need to be there, but for any initiative that is moving forward -- You know, instead of me, with what I just did, instead of me announcing it at a board meeting, this would be a more appropriate place. So, maybe we could just spend some time at one point or another identifying just a rule of thumb so that … Because you’re not the first and you’re not going to be the last that does something like this. So if we can help each other determine where it should be and where’s the most appropriate place to share that information, I think it would help all of us.
Wikle: Thank you. And thank you (Linda) for always sharing what your heart is. Because I believe your intent is always what’s best for the district.
Lerner: I think what Glen wants, this could be, if it’s part of the system, do you know what I mean, it doesn’t just have to be you. We need mentors desperately. And I’m not saying you didn’t have the idea to make it more than that. You probably did. But. Thanks for getting in there. It’s important.
Wikle: I think what we talked about this morning is this is not a Glen Gilzean, when he leaves, it’s gone. It’s a systemic change that we could implement in the district that empowers all our high schools to have young men to empower and I think that’s huge and I would be so supportive of that.