LARGO — Joshua Michaud, born 26 years ago with a brain tumor that left him unable to always control his impulses, stepped to the microphone Tuesday to tell the Pinellas County School Board about his favorite teacher.
"We can't afford to lose Chris because he's kind and he helped me with my problems," Michaud said in his staccato voice. "And he helped me with my anger and my frustration and with finding a good place to calm down."
Board president Janet Clark earlier had warned people not to clap after speakers had had their say. But as Michaud finished his plea and a couple of stiff claps erupted, Clark gave in and raised her own hands in applause.
The teacher is Chris Carter, a 43-year-old behavioral specialist who has worked three of his 15 years in the district at Bay Pines Life Skills, a day program for developmentally disabled adults.
Carter has earned so much love from his students and their families that they raised $27,500 to show the School Board how seriously they want to keep him.
Budget cuts to the district-funded adults with disabilities program mean a more senior employee from another school might bump Carter out of his position, parents say.
When they learned that, parents and members of the group Advocates for Insuring Retardates Entitlement held bowl-a-thons and golf tournaments to raise money to keep him. Now they are seeking a permanent source of funding.
"He's worth it," said Terri Michaud-Alex, Joshua Michaud's mother. She said that for 21 years, she has been navigating the Pinellas County School District to find the best care for her son. She has never been as happy as she is with Carter.
In the program, her son is learning skills he will need to be employed or live on his own — the goal of the class.
Speaker after speaker praised him Tuesday night, clearly impressing board members.
Deputy superintendent Jim Madden told the board that administrators are reviewing the request.
Also during the four hour-plus School Board meeting Tuesday:
• A handful of teachers and parents from the county's magnet programs asked board members not to eliminate a bonus paid to magnet and International Baccalaureate teachers for time spent coaching students during what would be their planning periods. Board members plan to further discuss the proposal at a future workshop.
• The board voted unanimously to renew contracts for two Dunedin charter schools that are privately run but largely publicly funded. Athenian Academy Charter School, serving kindergarten through eighth grade, received a 10-year contract renewal. Academie Da Vinci Charter School, serving kindergarten through fifth grade, was renewed for 15 years.
• New charter Mavericks High of South Pinellas got a five-year approval for a St. Petersburg campus, serving 400 students at risk of dropping out of school.
• Board members unanimously approved a memorandum of understanding addressing racial disparities in school discipline in connection with a districtwide desegregation lawsuit. Among the requirements of the agreement, schools must find alternatives to expelling students or referring them to law enforcement.