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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Pasco School Board gets feisty as money gets tight

The Pasco County School Board pulled 11 items off its consent agenda this morning, more than district staffers who have spent decades with the system could ever remember.

If there was a theme to the board's actions, it was that of looking for savings. The members decided to discuss at length job descriptions, contracts and specific employee allocations.

Board member Alison Crumbley, for instance, questioned a $71,000 purchase of student agendas, suggesting that students could buy a similar item themselves for $1 at any office supply store. District officials justified the expense by noting the agendas include information such as the code of conduct that the district is required by law to distribute to every student and parent.

Board member Steve Luikart asked about a $115,000 agreement with a virtual school provider in which the provider charges the district $400 more per course than it charges families that sign up independently. The added costs involved, yet again, state mandates and oversight, staff explained.

Several board members raised concerns about the proposed deletion of $15,000 of support for a secretary to the Pasco Education Foundation, saying the investment more than pays for itself in contributions to the foundation. They returned the .5 position to the budget. Chairwoman Joanne Hurley, meanwhile, raised concerns about a $7,000 contract for outside legal counsel for a charter school mediation, saying the administration was asking for approval after-the-fact and without input from the board or its official attorney.

Hurley criticized the administration for failing to meet the board's policy on legal contracts, and said she expected compliance moving forward. She said the board and lawyer Dennis Alfonso have the only authority to enter into agreements with outside counsel, after determining whether Alfonso's firm can handle the work through its approved retainer and fees. 

Board members signaled that they intend to continue keep up the heat going forward, to make sure that details -- and extra spending -- don't get overlooked in the paperwork.

[Last modified: Tuesday, June 7, 2011 4:33pm]


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