Cathi Martin changes mind, plans to stay on Pasco County School Board

LAND O'LAKES — About Cathi Martin's plan to resign from the Pasco County School Board: Never mind.

Just three weeks after announcing she was not healthy enough to complete her term, Martin has announced she now is committed to performing all the duties of the job.

"I have come to realize that my resignation would not be in the best interest of the School Board, the students, the teachers or the people who elected me," Martin said in a letter to superintendent Heather Fiorentino delivered Thursday afternoon. "I look forward to fulfilling my term."

The board next meets on April 21.

Martin did not respond to calls seeking further comment.

The move was not completely unexpected, as some of her allies in the county Democratic Party told the St. Petersburg Times last week that Martin was having second thoughts.

Jockeying for the anticipated vacancy on the School Board had already grown fierce. Six people filed applications with the governor's office in advance of Martin's anticipated resignation letter to Gov. Charlie Crist.

The one that concerned many Democrats most was the candidacy of Richard Corcoran, who has political aspirations in the county and the strong support of state Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey.

Fasano joined state representatives John Legg, R-New Port Richey, and Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, in requesting Martin's ouster after she failed to attend a March 3 meeting where a teacher disciplinary matter had to be postponed because of her absence.

In their letter, the lawmakers noted Martin's spotty attendance record beginning shortly after her 2006 re-election. They argued that the school district deserves a board member who is available to do the job, particularly in this time of tough budget decisions.

Martin did not attend any of the board's March meetings. During the month she did not respond to reporter requests for comment, nor did she communicate with the school district. She spent at least part of the time in the hospital.

Governor's decision

On March 12, she sent an e-mail to her colleagues and superintendent Heather Fiorentino apologizing to supporters that "due to health reasons" she would not be able to finish the remaining two years of her term. She signed that letter as "Catherine E. Martin, formerly District 3."

Over time, Martin has missed board meetings because of knee surgery, a seizure, high blood pressure, a car crash and several family-related crises.

Upon hearing Martin's latest plans, Legg let out a laugh and said, "Wow."

"My concern for the students of Pasco has now escalated even more," he said. "If we have a School Board member who doesn't show up for a meeting, resigns, unresigns … that's a significant disservice to our students, who deserve leadership."

Fasano has said he expected such a turn of events as Martin's resignation letter never materialized in the governor's office. His resolve on the matter has not changed, though.

"The letter sent to (the) Governor … still stands," Fasano wrote in an e-mail. "The Governor will make the decision."

A spokesman for Gov. Crist said the appointments department had not yet moved on the lawmakers' request, as it had been anticipating Martin's resignation.

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at solochek@sptimes.com or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at blogs.tampabay.com/schools.

Cathi Martin changes mind, plans to stay on Pasco County School Board 04/02/09 [Last modified: Thursday, April 2, 2009 8:12pm]

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