Pinellas School Board: 'No plaques, please!'
Officials from Big Brothers Big Sisters of Pinellas County came to the Pinellas County School Board meeting Tuesday to tout the success of their in-school mentoring programs.
But then the presenters did something school board members really didn't like: They gave a plaque to state Rep. Ed Hooper, R-Clearwater, (left) an active supporter of Big Brothers Big Sisters, in front of the televised meeting.
School board members didn't say anything at the time the plaque was given.
But toward the end of the meeting, Linda Lerner spoke up: "Our board meetings are not a place for the agency to give recognition to someone they want to honor or present a plaque," she said.
Other board members agreed.
Asked about the matter after the meeting, board chairperson Janet Clark called school board meetings an "inappropriate venue" for outside groups to come and present awards such as this.
"They could have done that at their board meeting, but this is a televised event," Clark said, likening it to school board officials going to a city council meeting to present a plaque to someone from the district.
Contacted after the meeting, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Pinellas County CEO Susan Rolston said her group meant no ill-intent, but understand the board's concern. She said she saw it as an opportunity to, not only highlight the progress of the mentoring program, but to point out that the funding for the program comes from the state Department of Education and the Juvenile Welfare Board, thanks in part to the committment of lawmakers like Hooper who support the program.
"It was really very informative in nature," Rolston said. "It was also an opportunity to say, 'It's not free.'"
Before their meeting ended, the board suggested the communications spokesperson to simply check with future presenters ahead of time to ensure no similar honors will be given.