Friday, February 23, 2018
Education

Hillsborough School Board's attorney says he's leaving post

TAMPA — For the second time in less than a year, Thomas Gonzalez has told the Hillsborough County School Board he no longer wants to be its attorney.

He'll still represent the district, he said. But the board needs to find other representation.

The announcement followed a long meeting Tuesday in which Chairwoman April Griffin moved to hire an auditor who would report directly to the board.

Gonzalez said the law allows the board to hire a financial auditor, not someone to do performance audits. Hearing that the district already undergoes dozens of financial audits each year, the board rejected the idea 4-3.

Griffin called the vote even though Gonzalez told board members it should have been on the agenda first. She also questioned Gonzalez about his opinion on what the auditor could or could not do.

Gonzalez said Wednesday that their discussion did not prompt his decision.

"That's just part and parcel of public sector law," he said.

Gonzalez said he is really following through on a resignation he submitted last April.

At the time, the district was grappling with opposition to classroom visits from the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

At a workshop, then-chairwoman Candy Olson tried to put the matter to rest with a written statement clarifying the district's policy on public speakers.

Gonzalez told her the statement amounted to policy, and she could not act on it without going through the public hearing process.

The controversy continued and Gonzalez decided to stop representing the board.

"I just think it's time to start talking about a transition," he said at the time.

For a while, the board explored its options.

"We looked at the cost of in-house counsel, and it was appalling," Olson said.

After conversations with board members and staff, Gonzalez decided to stay — at least until after last year's School Board elections were decided.

With the new board in place, Gonzalez said, "I thought this was an appropriate breaking point."

Griffin said she respects Gonzalez but does not apologize for questioning him about his opinion.

"We are supposed to blindly trust our attorney," she said. "Well, I'm not going to blindly trust anybody.

As he did in April, Gonzalez said he will remain on the job until the board replaces him.

Comments
After Parkland, another plea for rumor control: ‘This is not a joke’ (w/video)

After Parkland, another plea for rumor control: ‘This is not a joke’ (w/video)

ST. PETERSBURG — The mayor and the police chief came to Northeast High on Thursday to warn students about the dangers of circulating rumors of school safety threats on social media.While they were there, one of those unfounded rumors popped up on Fac...
Published: 02/22/18
Collards, ribs and Kool-Aid: Black History Month menu at NYU stirs controversy

Collards, ribs and Kool-Aid: Black History Month menu at NYU stirs controversy

NEW YORK — On Tuesday, a dining hall at New York University advertised a special meal in honor of Black History Month. On the menu? Barbecue ribs, cornbread, collard greens, and two beverages with racist connotations: Kool-Aid and watermelon-flavored...
Published: 02/22/18
Arming teachers? Some officials like the idea, but many educators don’t (w/video)

Arming teachers? Some officials like the idea, but many educators don’t (w/video)

With high school students from Parkland in the Capitol this week advocating for gun control, the bill that would have allowed superintendents and principals to designate trained employees who can carry concealed weapons at school didn’t get heard as ...
Published: 02/22/18
How will Douglas High students go back to class? There’s now a plan in place.

How will Douglas High students go back to class? There’s now a plan in place.

When students return to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High for the first time next Tuesday, they will be greeted by additional counselors and law enforcement."There will be a plethora of counselors and services at the school," Broward Schools Superintende...
Published: 02/21/18
School shooter may get inheritance — and be ordered to spend it on legal bills

School shooter may get inheritance — and be ordered to spend it on legal bills

Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz appears to have been in line for a sizable inheritance. He’ll never get to spend it — except perhaps on defense attorneys.The amount could be enough to compel a judge to order him to hire a private lawyer, rather ...
Published: 02/21/18
Pasco County schools, dealing with threats, warn students of consequences

Pasco County schools, dealing with threats, warn students of consequences

DADE CITY — A Pasco High School student was taken into custody Tuesday amid accusations of threatening violence against the school. The campus was not at risk, school district officials said. But they made clear they take each threat seriously, and t...
Published: 02/21/18
‘Blind Side’ star delivers message to Newsome High kids

‘Blind Side’ star delivers message to Newsome High kids

LITHIA — Students, faculty and staff recently scurried inside the Newsome High School gym for a morning assembly to hear a message about bullying from a man who kids once taunted.Newsome’s principal Carla Bruning invited actor Quinton Aaron, star of ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Spoto High helps students un-bottle emotions with Challenge Day

Spoto High helps students un-bottle emotions with Challenge Day

RIVERVIEW — Spoto High School English Department Head Adam Sherman can’t help but wonder if a program he introduced to Spartan students could have changed the trajectory of Nickolas Cruz’s life before he gunned down and killed 17 people on Valentine’...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Officers: When an active shooter attacks, survive by taking action

Officers: When an active shooter attacks, survive by taking action

LARGO — An Illinois teacher used confrontation. A campus safety monitor in Seattle attacked with pepper spray and physical force. An assistant football coach in Indiana shouted as he chased him into the woods.All were civilians who took down an activ...
Published: 02/20/18
Under a new law, some public schools will be managed by companies. Pinellas is getting ready

Under a new law, some public schools will be managed by companies. Pinellas is getting ready

LARGO — Pinellas County School Board members are not happy about the prospect of having to hand over academic control at three struggling schools to a private company, and paying the firm up to $2 million on top of it. But that’s the course they must...
Published: 02/20/18