Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hillsborough School Board members can learn from infighting sideshow

Far be it for any of us to try to educate those in the education business. But isn't there something to be learned from the sideshow that has become a Hillsborough County School Board meeting?

This week's gathering devolved from important school district issues out there, like, say, the aftermath of the deaths of two special education students or just making sure kids can read and write, into the latest installation in a very public power struggle.

The distracting drama centers on the faceoff between superintendent MaryEllen Elia and School Board Chairwoman April Griffin, with the chair taking point-blank if ultimately powerless aim at the powerful superintendent during Elia's evaluation.

So, how'd it go?

Griffin gave Elia the lowest marks and a vote of no confidence, though the bulk of the board supported the superintendent. Griffin made some good points to support her criticisms. She even sounded a positive note now and again.

And then the whole thing devolved into this sort of exchange:

Elia supporter Carol Kurdell to Griffin: "Take a look in the mirror tonight."

Griffin: "I do every night — thank you."

Kurdell: "Yeah, well, you might look a little harder."

And, scene!

What fun for the watching public, assuming they're there for Tuesday night entertainment and not concerned that the Bickersons might be running the eighth-largest school district in America.

(Speaking of the public: Kurdell defended her lack of written comments to accompany her high marks for Elia because, she said, she discussed those things with Elia "in private." Well. So much for a full public airing of a public concern, then, transparency being another troubling issue for the school district.)

Maybe here's a lesson from that meeting, its people and its politics:

Elia is tough and savvy. You are with or against her. "A bully," Griffin pronounced Elia's behavior with board members and staff, citing "cussing" and "yelling" as specifics. Heck, even the careful Stacy White suggested a breakthrough of Elia's "rugged exterior."

But you do not come to battle with Elia without being fully girded.

Sure, she may get caught unaware on a microphone sounding an awful lot like she's talking about stacking meetings with people who support her side. And it does not inspire confidence when two board members — Griffin and Susan Valdes, another Elia critic — will no longer meet with their superintendent one on one.

But who else but Elia could get a roomful of supporters to that evaluation meeting scattered throughout the audience wearing distinctive pink in support of her?

And among those supporters was no less than Kathleen Shanahan, Florida Board of Education member, who happened to be in a pink coat and extremely pink-and-purple boots.

Who else but Elia could rise from this snipefest looking above it all instead of in the thick of it? Truly, it is a talent.

A bigger lesson for the board is this:

The watching public is not impressed with infighting. And Elia isn't going anywhere.

Final assignment for the people who run Hillsborough schools: Please, quit your bickering. Deal with personalities you do not like. And find a way to make it work.

Hillsborough School Board members can learn from infighting sideshow 09/26/13 [Last modified: Thursday, September 26, 2013 11:10pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Chris Archer knocked out early as Rays lose to Orioles (w/video)

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — Another short outing by Chris Archer led to another long afternoon for the Rays in a 9-4 loss to the Orioles on Sunday.

  2. Bucs-Vikings report card: Where's this explosive offense we heard about all offseason?


    O NO

    True, the Bucs defense looked pretty leaky in the 34-17 loss to the Vikings. But you know what needs to happen when the defense is getting torched? The offense needs to step up. In games such as these, with defensive players seemingly getting hurt every play, the offense needs to outscore the other …

    Minnesota Vikings cornerback Trae Waynes (26) intercepts a Jameis Winston pass intended for wide receiver DeSean Jackson (11) during the first half. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  3. Bucs-Vikings: Instant analysis from Tampa Bay's 34-17 loss


    MINNEAPOLIS — Here's Rick Stroud and Tom Jones' instant analysis from the Bucs' 34-17 loss at Minnesota Sunday. More to come from Rick & Tom — and Greg Auman —- from Minneapolis later today.

    Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Jarius Wright (17) dives over the pylon for a touchdown as  Bucs cornerback Ryan Smith (29) defends. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  4. Worst-Case scenario: Case Keenum, Vikings hand Bucs 34-17 loss


    MINNEAPOLIS — With key defensive starters out with injury, the Bucs were dominated by the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, with fill-in quarterback Case Keenum beating Tampa Bay for the third year in a row, …

    Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston (3) is sacked by Minnesota Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen (97) during the first half. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  5. Officials: 1 dead, 7 victims hurt in Tennessee church shooting


    NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A masked gunman entered a church in Tennessee on Sunday and opened fire, killing at least one person and injuring seven others before apparently shooting himself, an official said.