Make us your home page

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 or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at

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

  1. Rays late-night bullpen shuffle: Alvarado, Pruitt down; Kolarek up


    The Rays shuffled their bullpen again after Tuesday's game, sending down struggling LHP Jose Alvarado along with RHP Austin Pruitt to Triple-A Durham, and turning next to LHP Adam Kolarek, who will make his major-league debut at age 28,

  2. Tampa Bay Times honored for top investigative story in Gerald Loeb annual business awards


    The Tampa Bay Times was a co-winner in the investigative category for one of the highest honors in business journalism.

    Tampa Bay Times current and former staff writers William R. Levesque, Nathaniel Lash and Anthony Cormier were honored in the investigative category for their coverage of "Allegiant Air" in the 60th Anniversary Gerald Loeb Awards for Distinguished Business and Financial Journalism. 


  3. Pasco woman gives birth to child fathered by 11 year old, deputies say


    A Port Richey woman was arrested Tuesday, nearly three years after deputies say she gave birth to a child fathered by an 11-year-old boy.

    Marissa Mowry, 25, was arrested Tuesday on charges she sexually assaulted an 11-year-old and gave birth to his child. [Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office]
  4. For good of the Rays, Tim Beckham should embrace move to second

    The Heater

    PITTSBURGH — The acquisition of slick-fielding shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria said a lot of things, most notably that the Rays are serious about making in-season moves to bolster their chances to make the playoffs, with a reliever, or two, next on the shopping list.

    PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 27:  Tim Beckham #1 of the Tampa Bay Rays celebrates with teammates after scoring during the eighth inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on June 27, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) 700011399
  5. St. Petersburg showdown: Kriseman faces Baker for first time tonight at the Rev. Louis Murphy Sr.'s church

    Local Government

    A standing-room-only crowd packed a Midtown church banquet hall Tuesday to witness the first face-off between Mayor Rick Kriseman and former mayor Rick Baker in what is a watershed mayoral contest in the city's history.

    Former Mayor Rick Baker, left, is challenging incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman, right, to become St. Petersburg mayor.