Sunday, September 23, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Hillsborough school board foolishly fires Elia

The Hillsborough County School Board made a reckless decision Tuesday night in terminating superintendent MaryEllen Elia. This was a politically motivated decision that had nothing to do with Elia's performance, student performance or public confidence in her leadership. It had everything to do with perceived slights and petty conflicts irritating four board members. Now the firing squad will have to find a capable replacement even as it struggles to explain why it paid $1.1 million to oust Florida's superintendent of the year.

The 4-3 vote by the seven-member board capped a long campaign by board members Susan Valdes and April Griffin to show Elia the door. The pair had long complained that Elia did not show them enough respect — a silly drama that over the past year took on new proportions.

Valdes and Griffin offered no legitimate reason Tuesday for firing Elia. Valdes claimed that Elia wasn't the issue, a statement as ridiculous as it was dishonest. Griffin went on a rant about the South Tampa crowd controlling Tampa politics. Board member Sally Harris, in office only weeks, sounded clueless in her brief remarks, which ended on this note: "I work for the children."

It was an embarrassing show by the governing board of the nation's eighth-largest school system. Cindy Stuart was the only board member who at least gave a serious rationale for firing Elia, saying the relationship had broken down and it was time for a change. It was a weak and self-serving argument that put all the blame on Elia for the two-way communication problems, but at least it was a straightforward explanation.

Elia had her faults, but she was an accomplished superintendent highly regarded by her peers who guided the district through the boom and bust cycles of growth and the economic recession. A finalist this year for national superintendent of the year, she has been a leading voice statewide and nationally on teacher training, improved academic performance and local control. She also was a reliable partner in local job-development efforts, which is one reason that bay area political and business leaders rushed in the past week to her defense. The board majority not only fired a respected civic leader, they failed to appreciate how the broader community has a significant stake in the success and smooth operation of the school system.

The vote leaves the district without a chief executive, leaves the board more divided than before, and leaves taxpayers more than $1 million in the hole. It also will foster a new culture of intimidation in the district as Valdes and Griffin see the extent that they can push a petty agenda. That certainly won't help attract the best talent in what needs to be a national search for Elia's successor.

Among the pressing issues facing the Hillsborough district that will require strong leadership from a new superintendent: fixing its teacher mentoring program, improving the transportation department and addressing deficiencies in special-needs education.

Elia deserved a more dignified exit, but this power play should not overshadow her contributions to Hillsborough and the bay area. And though it didn't save Elia's job, the outpouring of support from the political and business community was appropriate. It made the public more aware of the school system's larger role in society — and of the importance of School Board elections.

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Editorial: Florida needs uniform standards for voting by mail

Editorial: Florida needs uniform standards for voting by mail

Vote by mail has been a stunning success in Florida, increasing turnout and making it easy and convenient to cast a ballot with time to research and reflect. But a new study shows that mail ballots cast by African-American, Hispanic or younger voters...
Published: 09/21/18
Editorial: Borrowers need protection from Marlin Financial

Editorial: Borrowers need protection from Marlin Financial

State and federal lending regulations exist to protect consumers from being surprised — and overwhelmed — by ballooning debt. Marlin Financial, a shadowy auto lender doing business around Florida, seems to be skirting those protections ...
Published: 09/21/18
Editorial: Putnam hire stinks of patronage, secrecy

Editorial: Putnam hire stinks of patronage, secrecy

In addition to a lesson on political patronage, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam needs a refresher on the particulars of state public records law.In January 2017, Putnam hired the 27-year-old son of a former Publix executive to a high-pay...
Published: 09/20/18
Editorial: Investigate first, then hold Kavanaugh confirmation vote

Editorial: Investigate first, then hold Kavanaugh confirmation vote

There should be a timely investigation of the allegation of sexual assault against Judge Brett Kavanaugh before senators hear from him and his accuser, let alone vote on whether they should confirm his nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. The proces...
Published: 09/20/18
Editorial: Immigrants help to make America great

Editorial: Immigrants help to make America great

The heated debate on immigration could benefit from some more facts, which the U.S. Census has helpfully provided. And the facts show that rather than building walls, the United States would do far better to keep opening doors to legal immigrants. Th...
Published: 09/19/18
Updated: 09/20/18
Editorial: FDA acts to keep e-cigarettes from kids

Editorial: FDA acts to keep e-cigarettes from kids

The federal Food and Drug Administration is bringing important scrutiny to the increasing use of e-cigarettes, requiring companies that make and sell them to show they are keeping their products away from minors. Vaping is the new front in the nation...
Published: 09/18/18

Tuesday’s letters: Honor Flight restored my faith in America

Dogs are the best | Letter, Sept. 15Honor Flight restored my faith in AmericaJust as I was about to give up on our country due to divisiveness and and the divisions among its people and politicians, my pride was restored. As a member of the recen...
Published: 09/17/18
Updated: 09/19/18

Editorial cartoons for Sept. 18

From Times wires
Published: 09/17/18
Editorial: Senate should delay vote on Kavanaugh

Editorial: Senate should delay vote on Kavanaugh

The Senate and the nation needs to hear more about the sexual assault allegation against U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Setting aside Kavanaugh's judicial record, his political past and the hyper-partisan divide over his nomination, a no...
Published: 09/17/18
Editorial: Tampa council has another chance to show it takes Stovall House changes seriously

Editorial: Tampa council has another chance to show it takes Stovall House changes seriously

The Tampa City Council has yet to hear a compelling reason to allow a private social club in a residential neighborhood off Bayshore Boulevard, and a final meeting on the matter scheduled for Thursday offers the council a chance to show the diligence...
Published: 09/14/18