NEW PORT RICHEY — Pasco School Board member Cathi Martin on Monday called a locally generated legislative effort that would allow voters to recall school board members "absurd" and "unnecessary."
She and others in her position, who are unable to attend board meetings for health reasons, easily could attend using the telephone and other technology if their districts would allow them to, Martin suggested.
"Yet when it came up with our board, they shot it down," Martin said. "That's one of the reasons I feel like they're targeting me, because it could have been done."
Pasco Republican Executive Committee member Judy Kennedy contends that it's a much simpler problem, one of accountability. She has pushed for changes for almost a year, since it became apparent that Martin tended to miss as many meetings as she attended.
"It just upsets me that she gets paid $1,400 for a two-hour meeting and she doesn't even show up," said Kennedy, who asked the board to refine its attendance rules before turning to state Rep. John Legg to propose a possible solution. "She's not benefiting the 65,000 students that she represents or their parents."
If Legg isn't successful, Kennedy doesn't intend to give up the fight. "I will go to Gov. Crist," she said, noting that the governor has the authority to remove constitutional officers for neglect of duty, among other things. "If I have to drive to Tallahassee to personally see him, I will."
Legg, R-New Port Richey, said he planned to meet with representatives from the Florida Education Association and the Florida School Boards Association this week to see how he might tweak his proposal to make it more acceptable to them. He withdrew the idea as an amendment to the "Ethics in Education" bill last week, after the FEA's lawyer raised concerns about the constitutional implications of the measure.
"I don't think they care as much about the amendment as they do about weighting up the ethics bill," Legg said.
He hoped that with additional input, he could find a way to get the idea back on track before the bill clears the House Policy and Budget Council late this week or early next week.
Meanwhile, River Ridge High math teacher Renee Jonas, who lost a primary bid to unseat Martin in 2006, offered a pointed "I told you so."
"I stressed in my campaign …I have all the time in the world to devote to whatever job I choose," Jonas said. "I guess the voters didn't hear it."
She suggested that if Martin can't do the job, someone needs to step in and pick up the slack.
"When I am absent from school, which is very infrequently, they get me a sub," Jonas said.
"In her case, the seat sits empty."
Martin said she has no plans to resign.
Lining up candidates
The School Board has rejected Martin's request to attend meetings by telephone, and members have not asked the governor for action against Martin, who has endured health and family problems.
Jonas called the idea of running for the District 3 seat again in 2010 "very tempting."
"I would be available," she said.
Kennedy stressed the need to get people in the pipeline to defeat Martin if she seeks a fourth term two years from now and nothing else happens in the interim.
"I'm just hoping that somebody runs against her," she said. "This has got to stop. She has one excuse after another."
Martin said she wasn't sure whether she'll seek re-election. Much depends on her health.
"I'm not making excuses. Trust me," she said. "The voters voted me in to do a job, and I just have had some issues come up. I can't help it."
Martin planned to attend a board workshop today.
Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at blogs.