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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

How transparent is the new Pinellas County Schools administration?



The Pinellas County School Board is holding a work session Thursday to discuss the budget for the coming year, updated job descriptions, its strategic plan, and a proposal to eliminate district police officers. Yet none of those items were posted on the district's website for the public to view ahead of time.

Among the missing items: the proposed budget for the 2013/14 school year, the strategic plan, the proposal to eliminate the district's 26-member police force, and the job descriptions. That's the bulk of Thursday's agenda.

Some items were available in advance, including a report from the Pinellas Education Foundation and a few attachments related to a discussion about "operational efficiency."

District officials are obligated by state law to provide the public with the agenda at least seven days before a public meeting. Back up materials, if available, are to be posted on a public agency's website. That's not happening in the Pinellas County School District lately.

Under the previous administration, back up materials typically were up on the website days in advance of the School Board's meetings. Since superintendent Mike Grego took over, many items are going out to board members but aren't posted to the website for the public to view in advance. 

This week is a case in point. Board members received the proposed budget over the weekend. That item isn't on the website. Board members received updated job descriptions Wednesday morning. That information isn't on the website. Board members didn't receive - although it was ready - a proposal to eliminate the district's police force, transferring it to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office. That information was posted to the website and sent to board members Wednesday after The Gradebook complained.

This isn't the first meeting where items have been held back or rushed in at the last second.

A proposal to close Hamilton Disston and use it for other purposes wasn't posted before a workshop in which board members gave Grego the go-ahead to move forward. Staff members at the school were told afterward. Principal appointments for five schools on the state's turnaround list were walked into a regular board meeting and acted upon without being given to the public in advance. The Gradebook requested a copy of that item during a break at the meeting and was told it wouldn't be available until after the meeting.

Grego didn't return calls Wednesday for comment.

[Last modified: Wednesday, June 26, 2013 8:03pm]


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