Florida Board member Kathleen Shanahan speaks out as her term winds down
Maybe there's something in the water. Or perhaps it's just the liberating feeling of having just a short time left to serve on the Florida Board of Education
Whatever the case, board member Kathleen Shanahan, whose term expires at the end of December, on Tuesday followed in the footsteps of her former colleagues T. Willard Fair and Roberto Martinez in freely offering a heavily critical assessment of the goings on at the highest level of state education policy.
Shanahan, a Tampa businesswoman and one-time Jeb Bush chief of staff, said the board's credibility as an independent, statutorily created entity is at risk as members appear to have no plan to deal with clear problems in the state accountability system. She criticized interim commissioner Pam Stewart for listening rather than leading, saying time was wasting as detailed plans to move ahead had not come forth weeks after questions about Florida's school grading model had come up for a second year.
"We're in crisis time," Shanahan said. "We're still in the same mess we were in that I mentioned in July."
She leveled some shots at Gov. Rick Scott as well, noting that he had not bothered to attend his own education summit, not issued any position papers on next steps, and then floated the idea of an executive order on education to come without consulting board members.
"It's embarrassing for him that he's disrespecting the statutory integrity of this board," Shanahan said, urging the board to step up and act.
Chairman Gary Chartrand and Stewart rejected the idea of the state being in crisis mode, but said they agreed that some action is necessary.
Shanahan's comments were much like those of Martinez, the Coral Gables attorney who frequently criticized the department's efforts, particularly under former commissioner Gerard Robinson, as Martinez's term wound down. Fair actually quit the board a short time before his term officially ended in protest of the forced ouster of former commissioner Eric Smith.
The board continues to meet, with the subject of its commissioner search still on the agenda. Watch on Channel 7 of thefloridachannel.org.