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Cathi Martin may not quit Pasco School Board after all

LAND O'LAKES — It's been two weeks since Cathi Martin announced she'd be quitting the Pasco School Board.

Now it turns out she might not go after all.

Martin has yet to submit a resignation letter to the governor, and she's been conferring with county Democrats who suggest that the letter won't be in the mail any time soon.

"I believe she is rethinking," said Alison Morano, chairwoman of the Pasco County Democratic Party. "This is being blown up as a way to force her to leave, and it is not something that she has chosen."

Without naming names, Morano suggested that the county's Republican bigwigs have pushed to get Martin ousted — either through resignation or by the governor's removal — in order to obtain a political appointment to the School Board for someone "who may or may not be set up for a future political position."

That would be Richard Corcoran, an ally of state Sen. Mike Fasano who has made noise about running next year for State House District 45, after Rep. Tom Anderson retires.

Corcoran, who hasn't had a high political profile in the county, recently put his name in for Martin's seat if she leaves the post. He also snagged a contract attorney job at the Pasco County Sheriff's Office, and he's a co-host of Jeb Bush's May shindig for the arts in St. Petersburg.

He's got School Board member (and House hopeful) Kathryn Starkey nervously checking him out as a potential opponent not only for Anderson's seat, but also for debate time at the School Board table.

Rep. John Legg, one of three Pasco GOP lawmakers to call for Martin's removal, said it's not about political jockeying.

"Richard Corcoran has never been in the equation, in my mind, as far as why she should be removed," Legg said.

It's Martin's poor attendance record that's driving the train, he said.

Martin had missed more than half the board meetings in the months immediately following her 2006 re-election, and then a spate of meetings in late 2007. The drumbeat for her ouster began this month, after a teacher disciplinary hearing had to be delayed because Martin was not there.

Morano argued that Martin's health, and not local politics, should be at the heart of how Martin gets treated. She noted that other county officials with health problems — particularly former clerk of courts Jed Pittman, a Republican — have been "cut some slack" when they had poor attendance.

Martin deserves the same consideration, she said.

Martin has previously said her health problems included complications from knee surgery, high blood pressure and a seizure. She has missed other meetings because of her son's illness, the death of her dog and a car accident.

Part-time job in theory

There are some, including Fasano and other Republicans, who contend that the School Board deserves full representation and not an empty chair, particularly as the district enters tense discussions over possible budget cuts. And even though the job is technically defined as part-time, a School Board member has almost daily responsibilities, earning a salary that comes out to $103.32 a day.

Board member Joanne Hurley, for instance, said she has used her time between board meetings to attend committee sessions, read up on legislation, respond to parent e-mails and visit two or three schools a day.

It's not likely that Martin could keep up such a pace.

As she noted in her e-mail announcing her intent to resign, "due to on going health issues, I feel that I will be unable to finish my term."

In that March 12 e-mail to fellow School Board members and superintendent Heather Fiorentino, Martin said she would resign "effective at the convenience of the superintendent and governor." She signed off, "Catherine E. Martin, Formerly District 3."

Whether she will follow through now is unclear. Martin did not return calls seeking comment.

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 may not quit Pasco School Board after all 03/26/09 [Last modified: Thursday, March 26, 2009 10:15pm]
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