Saturday, February 24, 2018
Education

Hillsborough board remains divided on disclosures, transportation

TAMPA — Hillsborough County School Board member April Griffin spent 11 minutes stating her dissatisfaction with the way superintendent MaryEllen Elia is handling transportation issues.

"So let me make sure I understand," said member Carol Kurdell, who was sat immediately to her left. "Your opinion is that the process … "

"I don't think you have to paraphrase me," Griffin told her.

"Excuse me?" Kurdell said.

"I said I do not need you to paraphrase me," Griffin said, adjusting her microphone. "I stated my opinions very clearly and I will state them again if you need clarification. Thank you."

Kurdell paraphrased her anyway.

This exchange — followed by a similar discussion about whether Griffin was stating her opinion or fact — was one of several at Tuesday's board meeting that illustrated deep divisions on the seven-member board.

Earlier, they debated a planned policy to have senior staff file financial disclosure forms. The measure passed in September when two members were absent, but has not yet been implemented.

Some wanted to call another vote, arguing that the new requirement might dissuade some qualified employees from accepting jobs.

In the end they agreed to work out the details in their next round of drafting board policy.

The discussion on transportation was more volatile, with Griffin and member Susan Valdes taking direct shots at Elia.

Griffin, referring to controversy over whether board members can speak with a transportation consultant, chastised Elia for not answering an email she had sent. "That is absolute insubordination," she said.

Elia did not respond.

She did prepare a PowerPoint presentation, which was delivered by several members of her staff, to update the board about ongoing studies and investigations.

Member Cindy Stuart told Elia the board should have received a copy of the PowerPoint before the meeting.

Griffin and Valdes, meanwhile, said they had no confidence in any investigation conducted by district staff. It's not the first time the two have taken that position, and both are organizing town hall meetings to hear from employees and parents.

Olson and Doretha Edgecomb tried to calm things down, arguing that it would be fruitless to halt the investigations.

"My goal in this is to find solutions," Olson said.

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