For Robin Wikle, it was a matter of confusion.
For Lew Williams, it was a matter of respect.
Wikle, vice chairwoman for the Pinellas County school board, was charged during Tuesday's school board meeting with reading three proclamations. The first two dealt with National School Lunch Week (Oct. 9-15) and the third involved the Keeping the Lights on After School, an effort to publicly recognize the importance of the nation's after-school programs.
Wikle read the first proclamation, Pinellas County's own 124-word statement of recognition for National School Lunch Week. (See link below.)
When she finished, she looked over at interim superintendent John Stewart.
"We also have a national one from President Obama," Wikle said. "Um, Dr. Stewart, did you want me to read the whole, the complete proclamation?"
"That would be your choice, Mrs. Wikle," Stewart answered. "Suffice it to say it’s a presidential proclamation for National School Lunch Week."
School board chairwoman Carol Cook chimed in. "Yeah," she said. "I think that'll work. I don't think we need to read the whole thing."
"Right," Wikle said. "I believe our proclamation falls under the umbrella of the national proclamation because we have such wonderful leadership in our school lunch programs."
Something about the quickness of the action didn't sit right with Lew Williams, he said later. So he spoke up.
"I don’t think that’s doing justice to a proclamation that’s issued by the president, to not honor it and to just slough it off that way," Williams objected into the mic. "That’s just my opinion."
Wikle quickly yielded. "Ok," she said, picking up the longer proclamation before her. "Madam chair, I will read the proclaimation."
And she did.
Williams said later that he hopes he didn't overreact. But something about it bothered him.
"I won't go as far as to say it was political," Williams said, "but just the quickness of it without hesitation, 'Oh, you don't have to read it, we'll include it with the others.'"
"If the president of the United States is going to send a proclamation to us," he continued, "and we are reading others, then we should read that one too."
Asked about it today, Wikle said that she hesitated only out of confusion. The presidential proclamation came to the board late and she just didn't know if she was expected to read both the local and the national statements.
"I meant no disrespect to the office of the president," she said. "And if it appeared that way, it was just confusion and disorganization on my part and I apologize."