Pinellas education foundation gets green light for cost-saving effort
After a couple of bumps in the road, a Pinellas Education Foundation initiative to help the district identify cost-saving measures appears to have blessings from the school board and interim superintendent. Board members raised no objections at last week's workshop. And interim Superintendent John Stewart said Friday he welcomed the assistance.
"Obviously they have some expertise where they can help," he told the St. Petersburg Times editorial board. "The persons for the most part are very successful business persons. And they have an area where they can help. And I’m one that somebody sticks out a helping hand, I’m not going to reject it in any way, shape or form."
"Anybody’s who’s willing to help us find solutions, come on in, we’re willing to listen ... ," he continued. "We (school districts) hate to be criticized. I think everybody does to a certain extent. But a certain amount of criticism is a good thing. Constructive criticism is a very good thing. And I won’t reject any help I can receive out of hand. Now if you’re coming to be critical just because you want to be critical, I have a lot of problems with that."
At last week's workshop, foundation chair Craig Sher stressed during a presentation about the project - dubbed "$avings for Classrooms" - that the foundation's goal is to simply offer suggestions. "We're not here to implement anything or tell you what to do," he said. "We're not here for a witch hunt. We're not here to audit ... What you do with the findings is up to you."
"We mean this sincerely," he also said. "We want to free up dollars ... to put them in classrooms, so teachers can get raises and students can benefit."
Board member Linda Lerner said she wanted more information about how much staff time the effort might take. Board member Robin Wikle said the word "outsourcing" created some fear in employees.
At the end of the discussion, board chair Carol Cook turned to board member Janet Clark, who had earlier said she was not comfortable with the foundation's effort but raised no objects at the workshop.
"I'm proud of you," Cook told her.
"For what?" Clark responded. "For keeping my mouth shut?"