Saturday, November 18, 2017
Opinion

Daniel Ruth: Advice for sniping school board members — Grow up or go away

RECOMMENDED READING


There are certain jobs in elective office that carry with them a slightly higher expectation when it comes to how one behaves in public.

For example, it probably wouldn’t be a good thing if we were to learn Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren was a serial traffic scofflaw with a slew of overdue library books, to boot.

The same holds true for members of the Hillsborough County School Board. We ought to have a reasonable belief those charged with overseeing the welfare of the community’s children are serious, sober-minded, thoughtful stewards of the classroom.

Too naive? Apparently so.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Hillsborough school board rift is on display at training event

A few days ago Pinellas and Hillsborough County school board members gathered together in what was supposed to be a training session sponsored by the Florida School Board Association to learn how to be more respectful of one another.

And yes, you’re right. Obviously no good was going to come of this.

Instead, what was supposed to be a meeting of presumed adults charged with the responsibility of setting a positive image for children soon descended into a profane exercise in sniping between Hillsborough School Board members April Griffin and Tamara Shamburger.

The Bickersons of the school board went after each other with Shamburger accusing Griffin of disrespecting newer members. Griffin then responded by claiming she has "completely withdrawn" from engaging in conflict with her colleagues, to which Shamburger buried her face in her hands before walking out of the session, which was supposed to be about cultivating respect.

It seems Shamburger, when she wasn’t storming in and out of the room, was ticked off at Griffin for supporting Joe Robinson in the 2016 school board election. And since she had joined the board, Shamburger said, Griffin has treated her like a steaming pile of — well, you get the idea.

For her part, Griffin accused Shamburger of somehow blaming her for the lack of academic success among black students.

But this wasn’t all simply a tiff between Griffin and Shamburger. Later in the day, another board member, Cindy Stuart, essentially said colleague Susan Valdes scares the living bejabbers out of her because Valdes seems to have more anger management issues than Jack Nicholson in The Shining.

"We need to feel safe to approach you," Stuart said of Valdes.

Valdes suggested Stuart was merely confusing her passion for education with being perpetually honked off.

It is probably not a good thing in any work environment when an employee feels they need a bodyguard during meetings because they are apprehensive their unhinged office-mate may bite the head off a bat at any minute.

And these folks have the future of the community’s children in their clenched-fist hands?

First of all, Shamburger needs to get over Griffin’s support of her election opponent. It is part of political life that there are winners and losers. But once the votes are counted the victor especially needs to learn to work with those who may have backed the other horse.

And is certainly true Griffin can be a bit of an acquired taste on this school board. Shamburger won. Get over it.

As well, can we all agree no one board member is responsible for the overall academic performance of any cohort of students? If black students are struggling, blame the entire board.

More vexing though is the idea that any school board member actually fears the potential of Susan Valdes casting stink eyes in their general direction. Good grief, this is the Hillsborough County School Board. It’s not the Reservoir Dogs of public education.

While no one would ever confuse the Hillsborough County Commission or the Tampa City Council with bastions of apolitical comity, these folks are pillars of decorum and intellectual discourse compared to their petty, feuding brethren on the Hillsborough County School Board.

Two simple words for those who are supposed to be guiding our students through the challenges of public education — grow up.

Or find a less taxing job that doesn’t involve being role models for children.

 
Comments

Editorial: Good for Tampa council member Frank Reddick to appeal for community help to solve Seminole Heights killings

As the sole black member of the Tampa City Council, Frank Reddick was moved Thursday to make a special appeal for help in solving four recent murders in the racially mixed neighborhood of Southeast Seminole Heights. "I’m pleading to my brothers. You ...
Published: 11/17/17
Editorial: It’s time to renew community’s commitment to Tampa Theatre

Editorial: It’s time to renew community’s commitment to Tampa Theatre

New attention to downtown Tampa as a place to live, work and play is transforming the area at a dizzying pace. Credit goes to recent projects, both public and private, such as the Tampa River Walk, new residential towers, a University of South Florid...
Published: 11/17/17
Editorial: Rays opening offer on stadium sounds too low

Editorial: Rays opening offer on stadium sounds too low

The Rays definitely like Ybor City, and Ybor City seems to like the Rays. So what could possibly come between this match made in baseball stadium heaven? Hundreds (and hundreds and hundreds) of millions of dollars. Rays owner Stu Sternberg told Times...
Published: 11/16/17
Updated: 11/17/17
Editorial: Wage hike for contractors’ labor misguided

Editorial: Wage hike for contractors’ labor misguided

St. Petersburg City Council members are poised to raise the minimum wage for contractors who do business with the city, a well-intended but misguided ordinance that should be reconsidered. The hourly minimum wage undoubtedly needs to rise — for every...
Published: 11/16/17

Editorial: Make workplaces welcoming, not just free of harassment

A federal trial began last week in the sex discrimination case that a former firefighter lodged against the city of Tampa. Tanja Vidovic describes a locker-room culture at Tampa Fire Rescue that created a two-tier system — one for men, another for wo...
Published: 11/15/17
Updated: 11/17/17
Editorial: Firing a critic of his handling of the sewer crisis is a bad early step in Kriseman’s new term

Editorial: Firing a critic of his handling of the sewer crisis is a bad early step in Kriseman’s new term

Barely a week after St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman promised to unite the city following a bitter and divisive campaign, his administration has fired an employee who dared to criticize him. It seems Kriseman’s own mantra of "moving St. Pete forwar...
Published: 11/15/17
Updated: 11/16/17
Editorial: USF’s billion-dollar moment

Editorial: USF’s billion-dollar moment

The University of South Florida recently surpassed its $1 billion fundraising goal, continuing a current trend of exceeding expectations. At 61 years old — barely middle age among higher education institutions — USF has grown up quickly. It now boast...
Published: 11/14/17
Updated: 11/17/17
Editorial: Vets should not have to wait years for benefits

Editorial: Vets should not have to wait years for benefits

American military members hurt in service to their country should not have to wait a lifetime for the benefits they deserve. But that’s a reality of the disability process at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which hasn’t made payi...
Published: 11/14/17

Editorial: Deputies’ rescue reflects best in law enforcement

The bravery two Hillsborough County sheriff’s deputies showed a week ago is a credit to them and reflects the professionalism of the office.Deputies Benjamin Thompson and Trent Migues responded at dusk Nov. 11 after 82-year-old Leona Evans of Webster...
Published: 11/13/17
Updated: 11/17/17

Another voice: An untrustworthy deal with Russia

President Donald Trump’s latest defense of Russian leader Vladimir Putin included — along with a bow to his denials of meddling in the U.S. election — an appeal to pragmatism. "Having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing,"...
Published: 11/13/17
Updated: 11/14/17