Who would weed out the bad apples?
Amid the long list of proposed budget cuts, the proposal to trim the Pinellas school district's Office of Professional Standards barely registered. It involved just three jobs, for a potential saving of $275,573 toward a goal of $37-million.
But the three jobs would have come from a department that employs only four people. If district officials hadn't had a change of heart about the recommendation, the office that deals with about 2,000 allegations of employee misconduct a year would have been dismantled shortly after state lawmakers approved an Ethics in Education law that potentially could make the department even more important and busy.
Who would have been charged with the responsibility of investigating cases that deal with everything from possible child abuse to sexual misconduct? Most likely, the job would have fallen to school principals.
"Originally, the conversation was, 'Can we train principals to do more of the investigative kind of work?'" associate superintendent for human resources Ron Stone said Tuesday after a workshop where School Board members discussed the proposed cuts. "I think as we started looking at the complexity of some of these cases, we thought maybe it wasn't a good thing to put on the cut list."
So how did it get there in the first place?
Stone said he wasn't sure.
"Everyone was asked to make suggestions," he said. "All the divisions and departments were looked at from the perspective of what could you reduce and still maintain your core function."
- Donna Winchester, Pinellas education reporter