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Pasco School Board quietly ends textbook controversy

LAND O'LAKES — Pasco County's contested social studies textbook selection process ended quietly on Tuesday evening with the School Board adopting titles recommended by teacher-based committees.

Board members said nothing as they voted to authorize the books for use in the next academic year. It was a stark contrast from two weeks earlier, when they tabled the item while vocally complaining about superintendent Heather Fiorentino's handling of the process.

The primary complaint focused on Fiorentino's initial decision to overrule the elementary selection committee's top choice of materials. The committee recommended books by publisher TCI. Fiorentino said she thought the second-place book by McGraw-Hill would be easier to implement because of technology concerns, but later learned otherwise and changed her position.

With the committee's original recommendation before it, the School Board had no problems Tuesday approving the TCI purchase.

"I was happy that we went back and followed procedure and did everything correctly," board chairwoman Joanne Hurley told the Times. "I had nothing to comment on."

Hurley added that she asked plenty of questions of staff during the two weeks between board meetings, and had all her questions answered. That further diminished her need to highlight the agenda item for more discussion.

Board member Allen Altman said he also was satisfied with the superintendent's shift on the elementary titles, as well as the information he was provided about other concerns over changes midway through the process in the high school titles up for committee consideration.

"If those two things hadn't have happened … I would have brought it up," Altman said.

Going forward, he and others said, the administration should respect the time and effort of committees convened to make recommendations.

"That is one of the things that this board has always tried to back," board member Steve Luikart said.

With the controversy behind it, the district will now move to purchase the books, which will cost more than $1 million. The district staff also will look into possible policy changes regarding textbook selection to avoid future conflicts. Among the issues that arose in the elementary textbook debate was the fact that McGraw-Hill's representative was dating assistant superintendent for elementary schools David Scanga, who had to recuse himself from the process.

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at jsolochek@tampabay.com, (813) 909-4614 or on Twitter @jeffsolochek. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at tampabay.com/blogs/gradebook.

Pasco School Board quietly ends textbook controversy 05/16/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 16, 2012 8:22pm]
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