Saturday, November 18, 2017
News Roundup

School district spat has happened before

RECOMMENDED READING


Jim Robinson didn't want to fight this battle again.

As Pinellas County School Board attorney since 2005, Robinson has survived his share of political tussles.

He famously clashed with former superintendent Clayton Wilcox so severely that the board ordered the two to a facilitator. After Julie Janssen took Wilcox's seat, tension escalated when she sought a change in the structure of the legal office over Robinson's objections.

Now, superintendent John Stewart wants to do the same, recommending that associate counsel Laurie Dart report to him instead of Robinson. It's "what's best for the district," Stewart said last week.

But Robinson, who is retiring in August, said he has argued this point two times already with other superintendents. "I just didn't see that it was fruitful," he said.

Both men caught board members off-guard at last week's meeting when they entered into a heated back-and-forth about Stewart's recommendation.

At one point, board member Glenton Gilzean asked whether the board should call an emergency workshop to deal with the issue. "Honestly, I'm pretty concerned of the exchange that's going on right now," he said, "and I think if we delay it any longer, what is the impact that is going to have on our student achievement?"

The blow-up marked the first public spat between Stewart and anyone at the district's headquarters. Since becoming superintendent in September for an interim period, Stewart has had smooth relations with a board that was searching for stability after tumultuous experiences with Janssen and Wilcox.

Robinson said he knows how this all looks to those who remember his quarrels with past superintendents.

"I'm the common denominator," he said. "It's natural. I can understand why people would be concerned about that. I can explain it but explanation only goes so far."

Robinson announced his plans to resign three days before he said Stewart informed him of his plan to reorganize the legal office. He said the change had nothing to do with his decision to leave the district more than a year shy of his contract end-date. But Robinson said he did ask Stewart to hold off on any changes until after his departure.

Stewart said he believes now's the time to make the change, when he's reorganizing all the other district departments based on recommendations from an external audit.

"By statute, the superintendent is the chief personnel officer for the district," Stewart told the Tampa Bay Times editorial board last week. "Therefore counsel needs to be given to the superintendent without being fettered by another person's opinion."

But Robinson said the recommendation has numerous implications and seemed to come out of nowhere. The same audit report guiding Stewart praised the way Robinson's office works.

"This isn't taking a line and redirecting it from general counsel to the superintendent," Robinson argued to the board. "It's vastly more complex than that."

Board members directed the two district leaders to work out their differences.

Board member Linda Lerner predicted the conflict "will have a short life."

"I'm sure whatever decision is made, Dr. Stewart and Jim Robinson will move forward," she said.

Rebecca Catalanello can be reached at (727) 893-8707 or [email protected]

Comments

AC/DC founding member Malcolm Young dead at 64

NEW YORK (AP) — Malcolm Young, the rhythm guitarist and guiding force behind the Australian hard rock band AC/DC, has died. He was 64. AC/DC announced the death on their official Facebook page and website Saturday. The posts did not say when or where...
Updated: 17 minutes ago
Tampa police: Drunk wrong-way driver caused major crashes on Courtney Campbell Causeway

Tampa police: Drunk wrong-way driver caused major crashes on Courtney Campbell Causeway

TAMPA — Police arrested a 26-year-old man they say drove the wrong way while drunk and caused a multi-vehicle crash Friday on the Courtney Campbell Causeway.Collin John Cole faces two counts of driving under the influence causing serious bodily injur...
Updated: 25 minutes ago
Cannon Fodder podcast: Bucs-Dolphins preview

Cannon Fodder podcast: Bucs-Dolphins preview

Greg Auman has a final preview of Sunday’s Bucs-Dolphins game in Miami in his latest Cannon Fodder podcast.He talks about key matchups to watch for, from perhaps the NFL’s best slot receiver in Jarvis Landry, to Miami’s vulnerabilities at right tackl...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Romano: Hunting for a deadly needle in the Seminole Heights haystack

Romano: Hunting for a deadly needle in the Seminole Heights haystack

During the day, you hear from the psychics and the kooks. The well-intentioned tipsters, and the unsolicited profilers. This is all part of serial killer spillover, a sort of cottage industry of macabre.It gets tougher at night when you’re hounded by...
Updated: 10 minutes ago

Possible wrong-way crash on Courtney Campbell Causeway late Friday

TAMPA — A multi-vehicle crash on the Courtney Campbell Causeway late Friday may have been caused by a driver traveling in the wrong direction, Tampa police said.The crash occurred in the eastbound lanes closer to the Tampa side of the causeway, near ...
Updated: 11 hours ago

Region football: Clearwater Central Catholic 37, Calvary Christian 10

CLEARWATER — The ice bath ensued for Clearwater Central Catholic coach Chris Harvey after the Marauders’ 37-10 victory over Calvary Christian in Friday’s Class 3A region final. The win placed the Marauders (11-0) in their fifth state tournament since...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Tampa police investigate drive-by shooting in Seminole Heights

Tampa police investigate drive-by shooting in Seminole Heights

TAMPA — Police took one person into custody late Friday after a drive-by shooting ended in Seminole Heights.The incident, which unfolded about 11 p.m., did not appear to be related to the spate of other recent shootings in Seminole Heights that have ...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Region football: Plant 22, Viera 18

Region football: Plant 22, Viera 18

MELBOURNE — With 1 yard separating Plant from an incredible come-from-behind victory, or a devastating defeat, it all came down to a matter of trust.And for Panthers coach Robert Weiner, there was no one he would put more faith in to get that 1 yard ...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Region football: Armwood 22, Hillsborough 0

Region football: Armwood 22, Hillsborough 0

SEFFNER — Hillsborough conquered one nemesis with last week’s win over Class 6A defending state finalist Lake Gibson, the team that knocked the Terriers out of the playoffs in the first round a year ago.But there was an even bigger stumbling block to...
Updated: 11 hours ago

Region football: Ocala Vanguard 35, Mitchell 31

NEW PORT RICHEY — The start wasn’t quite befitting of a playoff game between undefeated teams, but the end of Friday’s war between Ocala Vanguard and Mitchell certainly was.Like last year’s Class 6A regional semifinal, the Mustangs held a three-point...
Updated: 11 hours ago