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Spat breaks out amid kudos at Hillsborough School Board meeting

TAMPA­ — It was supposed to be an afternoon of flashbulb moments.

After congratulating students with 13 years of perfect attendance, the superintendent would announce which employees earned promotions to principal and district supervisor.

The Hillsborough County School Board would unanimously approve. Or maybe not.

Board member Susan Valdes voted against the appointment of Carla Sparks as supervisor of single-gender programs ­­— not because she doubted Sparks' credentials, but because she was upset at superintendent MaryEllen Elia.

"My vote on this matter is about process and procedures," Valdes told Sparks.

Valdes said the superintendent had not fully informed the board about the position as the district prepares to reopen Franklin Middle as a center for male students and Ferrell Middle for girls.

Elia quickly assured the board and the audience that she had disclosed everything about this federally assisted venture.

"One of our problems has always been that if things get approved in grants, sometimes board members don't do all of the reading in their packets on each of those positions," Elia said.

Valdes reacted instantly.

"I do read all of my agenda items," she said. "I need for you to take that back because it's not so."

At that point, other board members tried to focus attention back on the promotions.

During a recess, Valdes said she did not think Elia had authority to create a supervisory position to oversee two single-gender schools and a few single-gender classes in other schools. "That's our jurisdiction," she said.

And she said she felt insulted by Elia's contention that she had not read her backup material. "I do read everything," she said.

The argument happened in the midst of a long list of appointments that had attracted a standing-room-only crowd of spouses and well-wishers.

Board member April Griffin said the matter of organizational charts needs more attention, and called for a workshop. The board approved Griffin's request, with member Jack Lamb dissenting.

Valdes said later that she does not worry about being isolated on the board for making waves.

"If we don't stand up for something, we fall for everything," she said.

The board went forward with these appointments without controversy:

• King High principal Carla Bruning will move to the principal's job at Newsome High.

• Melanie Cleveland is now supervisor of middle and secondary reading; Daniel McFarland is supervisor of secondary science; and Lisa Cobb is director of grants and research.

• Michelle Spagnuolo is principal of Lowry Elementary; Gaye Holt is principal of Clark Elementary; Ismael Lebron is principal of Bing Elementary; Denise Mobley is principal of Pinecrest Elementary; and Anthony Montoto is principal of Valrico Elementary.

• These principals were transferred to new posts: Larry Sykes, from Ferrell Middle Magnet to Lockhart Elementary; Kristin Tonelli, from Hunter's Green Elementary to Lewis Elementary; Joseph Brown, from Walker Middle to Madison Middle; Gloria Waite, from Mabry Elementary to West Tampa Elementary; Sherri Frick from Ballast Point Elementary to Mabry Elementary; Melanie Palmeri Bottini, from Grady Elementary to Carrollwood Elementary.

Marlene Sokol can be reached at (813) 226-3356 or sokol@

Spat breaks out amid kudos at Hillsborough School Board meeting 06/14/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 14, 2011 11:16pm]
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