Thursday, September 20, 2018
News Roundup

Ernest Hooper: Hillsborough County School District needs meaningful action, not platitudes

When it comes to the Hillsborough County School District, the more I see, the less I know.

Every week, the notion the district can successfully navigate its budget crisis and all the ancillary problems sprouting from it takes a hit. The dispute between the district and the teachers union — now at an official impasse — is just one of the problems.

In the last few months, teachers, school bus drivers, former employees, concerned citizens and worried parents have expressed dismay about superintendent Jeff Eakins and the School Board.

The result? Eakins’ future in question and board members looking to separate themselves.

"?‘Vote them all out’ is indeed something I read and hear frequently about members," board member Melissa Snively said. "While I certainly can’t blame folks for their lack of trust — in fact my sentiment is much the same — I do want people to know that not every member is entrenched in controversy."

In a recent letter to south county business leaders, Eakins offered solutions, including "right-sizing our organization" and harnessing the support of local businesses.

But the positive platitudes need to be backed by meaningful action; a sign to believe. Eakins could start by crafting a compromise the teachers will accept.

The union must strongly consider letting go of the original promised dollars, but it probably won’t without Eakins making a larger concession.

It also would help if the Hillsborough legislative delegation made a concerted effort instead of dividing along party lines and allowing a diverting of dollars to charters and private schools.

Eakins wrote in his letter he’s optimistic. Someone has to be, but his hope needs an infusion of tangible progress.

That’s all I’m saying.

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