More than 200 Polk citizens ask for delay of USF Poly independence decision
Two-hundred and 14 Polk County citizens are now asking the Florida Board of Governors to delay a decision about USF Polytechnic's potential split from the USF system for at least a year to "conduct a thorough, objective, public, fact-based analysis."
The petition, sent to the chairwoman of the board that oversees the state's public universities, comes three months after the debate was sparked by another letter signed by 30 Polk County residents, urging Ava Parker to set USF Poly free. And it comes at a time when scrutiny of USF Poly and its leader is heating up. Just yesterday, two state senators who have been vocal critics of USF Poly's potential secession pushed harder on their attempt to get a complete audit of all USF Poly's expenditures under chancellor Marshall Goodman.
Goodman has been one of the loudest supporters of a split, giving speeches comparing the school's potential to the dream of Walt Disney. Another has been J.D. Alexander, the powerful state senator from Lake Wales who also controls the budget.
The opposition letter sent late Tuesday says, "the issue of separation is being politically driven and is not in the best interest of education for our county and our region, especially in this time of economic turmoil."
It was sent to the Board of Governors by David Touchton, a CPA who graduated from USF Poly in 1965 and has served on the Central Florida Development Council, the Board of the Community Foundation of Greater Lakeland and the Lakeland Chamber Foundation. In May, USF Poly awarded Touchton the Distinguished Service Award.The Board of Governors will consider USF Poly's future at its meeting next week. Goodman is expected to give a presentation outlined by the 50-plus-page business plan USF Poly released two weeks ago, within hours of its deadline. The plan has been edited and resubmitted to the board several times since then.