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Pinellas district officials pledge to get along better

The Pinellas school district's top two officials signed an agreement Monday in which they pledged to respect each other and work together "in a collaborative fashion" after months of tension.

School superintendent Clayton Wilcox and School Board attorney Jim Robinson signed a "working protocol" after three meetings with former Hillsborough superintendent Earl Lennard, who served as a facilitator.

Among the provisions:

• Wilcox and Robinson will meet at least weekly, or more often if deemed necessary by both.

• Wilcox, in recognizing Robinson as the general counsel for the School Board and the district, will utilize him for the district's source of legal advice.

• Robinson will consult with and consider Wilcox's input prior to issuing formal legal opinions.

Both Wilcox, whose salary this year is $204,509, and Robinson, whose salary is $170,562, said they are optimistic about their future working relationship.

"I think they were fruitful conversations," Wilcox said of the meetings with Lennard.

Robinson credited Lennard, who did not charge the district for his services, with crafting an agreement he thinks both he and Wilcox can honor.

"He was very gracious with his time," Robinson said. "The protocol touches on the essential elements of the working relationship that needs to exist between our two offices."

In a phone interview late Monday, Lennard said he, too, is optimistic the two officials will move forward on better footing.

"Very early on, I could tell they both were committed to finding a way to resolve their issues," Lennard said. "They both put the good of the district above their individual differences."

Those differences, which played out for months behind the scenes, came to light recently after Robinson expressed disappointment that Wilcox had moved forward on a legal issue without contacting him. Wilcox responded by questioning Robinson's competence and saying he would seek his advice only in limited circumstances.

Robinson asked School Board members to intervene at that point, suggesting they utilize the services of a facilitator.

Board chairwoman Nancy Bostock, who voted against the idea, said she is pleased with the outcome.

"I think they're both professionals and that they'll make a renewed effort to work in a way that will benefit the school district," Bostock said.

Board member Linda Lerner said the agreement was a good one.

"It's simple, but it's to the point of what needed to be addressed," Lerner said. "It's basically a reiteration of the job description and responsibilities of the School Board attorney."

Donna Winchester can be reached at winchester@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8413.

Pinellas district officials pledge to get along better 03/31/08 [Last modified: Saturday, April 5, 2008 2:24pm]
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