Sunday, February 18, 2018
Education

Hillsborough School Board opens up on employee discipline

TAMPA — Reversing a vote from earlier this month, the Hillsborough County School Board decided Tuesday to go back to publicly posting the names of employees who face suspension or dismissal.

They will also include brief descriptions of allegations against the employees and disclaimers that tell due process rights.

While noting the importance of compassion, member Candy Olson said: "I also think that parents and people in the community have a right to know if someone is charged with a felony or whatever it is. I think it would be helpful for people to realize that we have 25,000 employes and maybe 100 a year who do something so bad, we say we want to suspend you without pay."

The motion, which passed 6-1, came from member Doretha Edgecomb, who on April 2 moved that the names be taken off the board's online agenda. Frustrated that news columnists misinterpreted her motives, she insisted she never wanted to do anything that was illegal or lacked transparency. "I can put it succinctly: I was trying to insert some humanity in the process," she said.

Names of district employees facing discipline are posted online in Pasco and Pinellas counties. In Hillsborough, the practice began in September. Before that, members received paper lists of the employees shortly before their meeting.

The names and investigative files were still a matter of public record. One issue discussed was the additional work being required of the information office, which must supply that information to the public on request. That's one reason board members agreed to add the allegations to what will now be posted.

Another, Olson said, is to let people know allegations against an employee might not have anything to do with children.

Member Carol Kurdell spoke against the measure. Responding to Chairwoman April Griffin's use of the phrase "our partners in the press," she said:

"The press is not our partner. They never have been. They are in business to get any story that they can at any cost that they can. The press gets paid. Their job is to dig for the story. It's not my job to give it to them. Nor will I ever, or nor have I ever."

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