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School Board member Cathi Martin misses graduation

NEW PORT RICHEY — Her name topped the program list of guests expected to attend.

But Pasco School Board member Cathi Martin was nowhere to be found at Ridgewood High School's commencement Friday night.

She didn't even bother to call — although she sent an e-mail saying she was sick that assistant superintendent Ruth Reilly didn't receive until Saturday. Reilly said she spoke to Martin later Saturday, and Martin told her she was taking medications and hoped to feel better in time for today's School Board meeting.

The no-show comes less than two months after Martin declared she was "committed to fulfilling the duties of my elected position," backtracking on her weeks-old announcement that she would resign. At the time, three local lawmakers had formally asked Gov. Charlie Crist to remove Martin for her chronic absences from meetings and other district events.

That request remains on the books; Crist has not acted on it.

Martin did not return calls Monday to her home or cell phones.

Each year, School Board members choose the high schools where they want to represent the district during graduation season. Occasionally, some don't participate. Usually, they attend at least one.

The superintendent's staff keeps the calendar, sends out regular reminders and has the schools do the same. That way, there's less chance of confusion over what to wear, where to sit or other expectations.

Newly elected board member Joanne Hurley made it to three graduations over the weekend. Board members Frank Parker, Allen Altman and Kathryn Starkey greeted grads at one each.

"It's necessary that we show our presence there," said Parker, the board's chairman. "I feel it's part of the job."

Other community dignitaries also showed up in cap and gown, including U.S. Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite, state Sen. Mike Fasano and state Reps. Will Weatherford and John Legg.

The latter three are the ones who have pushed for Martin's ouster.

Fasano said that request remains alive, though he acknowledged having gotten no feedback from the governor's office on the matter.

"I am assuming that since she made statements that she will attend and make an effort … the governor and everyone else is watching her," Fasano said. "It's her requirement to attend meetings and participate when she makes commitments."

In the past, Martin has offered a variety of explanations for her absences, ranging from illness to car problems. She has said she has overcome her problems and that her resignation "would not be in the best interest of the School Board, the students, the teachers or the people who elected me."

Board members are expected to report about their recent activities, including the graduations, when they meet this morning. Martin is scheduled to attend.

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at solochek@sptimes.com or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at blogs.tampabay.com/schools.

School Board member Cathi Martin misses graduation 06/01/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 2, 2009 10:27am]
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