Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

School district police force will stay, board members say

LARGO — Pinellas County schools will keep an internal police force rather than consider a proposal to outsource the officers, School Board members agreed Thursday.

Sheriff Bob Gualtieri told the board his department could provide better service at a lower cost. School district officers would become sheriff's employees, and the three-year cost would be $1.9 million.

"You're getting more with this," he said.

Board members weren't convinced. Linda Lerner said she wasn't sure the savings — about $217,000 — was worth it. Janet Clark said she didn't see a reason to change the current setup for school resource officers. Under that arrangement, a 26-person internal police unit works in some schools and the district contracts with seven outside police agencies, including the Sheriff's Office, to cover the rest.

Only board member Robin Wikle expressed a strong interest in continuing talks with the sheriff.

The proposal came as a surprise to most board members. District officials kept it hidden until pressed for information Wednesday. The idea was listed vaguely under another agenda item, and the district didn't provide backup materials — including a draft contract — until a reporter requested them.

Board member Terry Krassner said she was caught off-guard. "Usually we know what's going to be on our agenda," she said.

Lerner told superintendent Mike Grego that "this doesn't follow our way of work."

Grego, who first met with Gualtieri in March, said his intention wasn't to mislead anyone. He wanted to discuss the idea with the board Thursday and never planned to release the draft contract. He did it to satisfy a public records request, he said.

"That was unfortunate that I had to send that," he said.

But Barbara Petersen, president of the First Amendment Foundation, which promotes government openness in Florida, said holding back public documents from board members was troubling.

"If the superintendent is not giving these documents to the school board members until they walk into the meeting, how can they make an informed decision?" she asked. "And if he's doing that simply because he's afraid it's going to fall into the hands of the press or the public, then shame on him, because we have a right to know."

Several other major items on the agenda weren't put on the district's website until Thursday morning, including the proposed 2013-14 budget, the strategic plan and revised job descriptions. However, board members received those in advance.

Board members don't vote during work sessions, but chairwoman Carol Cook asked for a show of hands or a thumbs up Thursday to decide whether to pursue further discussions with the Sheriff's Office about outsourcing. The unofficial vote went against the sheriff.

Staff writer Lisa Gartner contributed to this story. Cara Fitzpatrick can be reached at (727) 893-8846 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @Fitz_ly.

School district police force will stay, board members say 06/27/13 [Last modified: Friday, June 28, 2013 12:13am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Motorcycle passenger critically injured in crash on USF campus

    Accidents

    TAMPA — A crash that occurred Thursday night on the University of South Florida Tampa campus sent a motorcycle passenger to the hospital in critical condition.

  2. Forecast: Warm, humid weekend ahead of big cool-down for Tampa Bay

    Weather

    The weekend kicks off warm and dry on Friday across Tampa Bay with mostly sunny skies and temperatures in the upper 80s.

    Tampa Bay's 7 day forecast. [WTSP]
  3. U.S.-backed Syrian force declares victory over Islamic State in Raqqa

    World

    BEIRUT — A U.S.-backed Syrian force declared victory over the Islamic State group in its former "capital" of Raqqa on Friday, declaring the northern Syrian city free of any extremist presence.

    This Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017 frame grab made from drone video shows damaged buildings in Raqqa, Syria two days after Syrian Democratic Forces said that military operations to oust the Islamic State group have ended and that their fighters have taken full control of the city. [Associated Press]
  4. Florida education news: Lawsuits, lawyers, school board pay and more

    Blogs

    IN COURT: A former Hillsborough County school district top administrator sues the School Board and its chief of staff, alleging board member corruption and …

    Hillsborough School Board member Susan Valdes is the subject of several allegations in a former employee's scathing lawsuit.
  5. Clearwater eyes hiring new downtown director within two months

    CLEARWATER — Now that the city director tasked with revitalizing downtown has resigned after his arrest on a battery charge during Oktoberfest, City Manager Bill Horne said the goal is to not leave the position vacant long.

    Clearwater Assistant City Manager  Micah Maxwell will oversee downtown until the city hires a replacement for Seth Taylor.