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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Hillsborough: New school board offices will come in on a budget



Here's the word on the new Hillsborough County School Board member offices, and if you're late to the party, here's the back-story:

For a long time, chairwoman April Griffin has lamented the lack of privacy members have, working in cubicles with shared secretaries. Such conditions create a high risk of violating the Sunshine Law, she argued. Others, including Cindy Stuart, questioned the arrangement as well, although some were more concerned with research help than with physical offices.

The administration, in response to their inquiries, estimated in February that it would cost $428,000 to remodel part of the downtown headquarters' second floor and hire enough secretaries so each member would have her own.

That drew a backlash from critics of the board, who were smarting over the firing of Superintendent MaryEllen Elia.

The district, in its five year capital plan, listed $600,000 for renovations to the second floor.

But that was all hypothetical and the board never approved the expenditure, said spokeswoman Tanya Arja.

Still, the board offices remain a sore spot -- most recently, in the ongoing teacher salary negotiations. Angry teachers have posted on social media that it's an outrage, spending $600,000 on new School Board member offices while holding back on retroactive raises for teachers' aides.

What's the real deal?

As Arja explained on Wednesday, the members are moving from first-floor cubicles to second-floor offices, each with its own door.

But the renovations will be minimal, capped at $40,000, "and we hope to do it for less than that," she said. It's capital money, she added, meaning it could not be used for teacher pay anyway.

They will have the same number of secretaries: Three. Some are transferring in and out of the jobs, she said. But "we're not hiring any new ones"

Furniture will likely be donated, she said. The move should be complete by January.

[Last modified: Wednesday, December 9, 2015 4:08pm]


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