Pinellas school board wants ed foundation plan to be aired at workshop
A Pinellas Education Foundation project to help the school district identify places to cut waste and save money should come before the full board at a workshop, board members decided at a workshop yesterday.
Along the way, board attorney Jim Robinson advised members not to have one-one meetings with the foundation on the matter, given concerns about the Sunshine Law and the project's potential sweep. The foundation had planned to do just that.
When board member Peggy O'Shea noted that board members individually meet with other groups and talk about other issues, Robinson said there's a difference in this case.
"It's the context," he said. "With this kind of issue, this is huge. What they want to do is make massive changes operationally in any number of departments throughout the district. And so they're going to meet individually with board members and essentially get buy in."
"I don't want to say there's anything wrong with it," Robinson continued. "I don't want to go down on record as saying this is a bad thing. I'm just saying it's something that ought to occur, all those discussions, all the thinking, the process, ought to occur in the context of a noticed meeting."
In the end, the board directed chair Carol Cook to send a letter to the foundation, asking it to make a presentation to the board at an upcoming workshop.
Foundation president Terry Boehm said he didn't think that would be a problem. "When I get the letter ... I'll share it with our guys and see how they want to handle it," he told The Gradebook today.
But Boehm also said it was "absurd" that board members could not individually meet with foundation officials.
"This is strange," he said. "If the foundation is not allowed to meet with school board members, there must be a new definition of government in the sunshine."
"I would hope that board members would still be able to meet with the foundation," he continued. "That's the part that probably needs to be clarified as ... which groups can meet with the school board and which groups cannot. That needs to be clarified. That whole thing seems to be odd."
The board discussed the foundation initiative for 15 minutes.
Member Linda Lerner led off, suggesting the information that surfaced through the Friday Update newsletter was different than Superintendent Julie Janssen had ealier suggested. "I think there are many positive things there," she said about the plan. But she also said it was a "huge initiative" that needed to be aired before the full board. She said she didn't think board members should meet with foundation officials individually.
"This is something that could affect so many areas, including bargaining. So many things," she said. "I wouldn't mind meeting with them after the whole board has a chance."
Cook said the letter to the foundation would be sent out by the end of the day today.