Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pasco County school spending gets new scrutiny

LAND O'LAKES — Pasco school superintendent Heather Fiorentino figures 88 district employees need cell phones for the efficient operation of the schools.

She wants to send a handful of administrators to out-of-state conferences. And she wants to keep all school principals on 12-month contracts.

Ordinarily, these decisions would be routinely handled with little discussion.

But under a new state requirement, local school districts must spend some time poring over each expense in more detail.

When crafting the tight state budget this spring, some lawmakers wanted to make sure school districts focused their money on classrooms.

So they passed a law saying that if boards want to spend money on certain items — such as cell phones or employee contracts lasting longer than 10 months — they have to take specific action at a public meeting so people will be informed.

Land O'Lakes High teacher Pat Connolly confronted the Pasco School Board last month, asking when it would comply with that law. Fiorentino said the items would come soon.

On Tuesday, the School Board will consider each item. Not that it plans to change the way the district does business, though.

Board members interviewed said they expected to approve Fiorentino's requests for the 88 phones, the out-of-state travel and the 12-month principal contracts.

"If (principals) went to 10 months, the first month of school would be a fiasco," board Chairman Frank Parker said.

The employees who have cell phones need them because they deal with situations that either have them on the road or require quick response, board member Joanne Hurley noted.

"There are key, critical positions in the school district that we consider 24/7," Hurley said. "They have to be instantly available, and it doesn't make sense to deny them the equipment they need."

The district's top administrators, and all board members, have a district phone. The rest are assigned primarily to employees in construction, transportation, maintenance and food service.

As for out-of-state travel, eight trips are scheduled. Half are required as part of programs such as International Baccalaureate, one is part of the federal Head Start grant, and three are associated with training to improve the schools.

So long as such travel is minimal, board member Kathryn Starkey said, it should occur.

"I would always want to encourage learning best practices and other ways to deliver education," she said. "But in a time of very strict budgets, we can't do as much as we would like."

Parker said he considered the Legislature's requirement for board action little more than micromanagement. And he viewed it as unnecessary.

"We've already been where they wanted us to be," he said, noting that the board already had been approving each out-of-state travel request, for instance. "We're not doing anything that is not absolutely necessary."

Hurley and Starkey said they didn't really mind the lawmakers' effort.

"I've always thought that we didn't discuss enough issues publicly so everyone understands the things we do," Hurley said. "I see this as another opportunity for the board to provide oversight."

Starkey agreed.

"We've got to keep in mind, it's not our money," she said. "It's the public's money."

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

Pasco County school spending gets new scrutiny 08/14/09 [Last modified: Friday, August 14, 2009 6:56pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Tampa tax shelter schemer too fat for his prison term, attorney says

    Criminal

    TAMPA — A federal judge sentenced two Bay area men to prison terms last week for peddling an offshore tax shelter scheme that cost the IRS an estimated $10 million.

    Duane Crithfield and Stephen Donaldson Sr. were sentenced to prison after marketing a fraudulent offshore tax strategy known as a "Business Protection Plan" to medical practices, offering doctors and others coverage against unlikely events such as a kidnapping.

  2. Weinstein Co., overwhelmed by backlash, may be up for sale

    Corporate

    NEW YORK — The Weinstein Co., besieged by sexual harassment allegations against its namesake and co-founder, may be putting itself up for sale.

    Weinstein
  3. Trial begins in 2014 death of 19-month-old Tampa girl

    Criminal

    TAMPA — Even before his trial officially began, Deandre Gilmore had planted his gaze on the floor of Judge Samantha Ward's courtroom Monday, taking a deep breath and shifting in his seat as a pool of 60 potential jurors learned of his charges.

    Gilmore
  4. Rick Pitino officially fired by Louisville amid federal corruption probe

    College

    In an expected move, the University of Louisville Athletic Association's Board of Directors on Monday voted unanimously to fire men's basketball coach Rick Pitino. The decision came 19 days after Louisville acknowledged that its men's basketball program was being investigated as part of a federal corruption probe and …

    In this Oct. 20, 2016, file photo, Louisville head basketball coach Rick Pitino reacts to a question during a press conference in Louisville, Ky. Louisville's Athletic Association on Monday officially fired Pitino, nearly three weeks after the school acknowledged that its men's basketball program is being investigated as part of a federal corruption probe. [AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley, File]
  5. Editorial: Trump uses Americans' health care as bargaining chip

    Editorials

    Unable to persuade Congress to kill the Affordable Care Act, President Donald Trump appears determined to do the dirty work himself. The president's unilateral actions are aimed at driving up premiums, steering healthy people away from the federal marketplace and ensuring his inaccurate description of the law as a …

    Unable to persuade Congress to kill the Affordable Care Act, President Donald Trump appears determined to do the dirty work himself.