Sunday, May 20, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Kindergarten conduct on school board

It's easy to understand the wide swings in Hillsborough County Schools superintendent MaryEllen Elia's latest job review, because two School Board members are clueless about what an evaluation is all about. In most places, performance reviews serve a two-fold purpose — to give bosses a measure of the staff and employees a sense of their strengths and weaknesses. But School Board members April Griffin and Susan Valdes used Elia's review this year to whine, posture and settle old scores. It was self-serving and useless for the organization and its 200,000 students.

Griffin and Valdes awarded Elia a single point — on a sliding scale from one to five, with five being the highest — across nine separate categories, from her leadership and management skills to her ethics. The nine-point total was one-fourth what a majority of the seven-member board gave the superintendent. Even first-term Cindy Stuart, elected last year on a reformist agenda, awarded Elia 29 points and was constructive in her criticism. She also was fair in recognizing where Elia improved and clear about her expectations.

Griffin and Valdes took a much different approach. Griffin, the board chair, noted that were it possible, she would have given Elia zeros in most categories. In her written comments, Griffin bemoaned injustices and traits dating back a decade, nearly all of which she has repeated over and over, most involving turf and the degree of deference the chairwoman expects from the staff. Valdes' comments were barely comprehensible. Neither reflected well on the competency of a board overseeing the nation's eighth-largest school system.

Elia has her faults. She is often too defensive and prone at times to offer spin about mistakes instead of acknowledging them. She also can hide behind the bureaucracy when her policies are called into question. But Elia also has considerable strengths that serve the school system well. She's championed more rigorous academics. She has extended programs to poor and struggling campuses. Her budgeting enabled Hillsborough to endure the recession without laying off teachers. A report this month showed Hillsborough, the state's third-largest district, had Florida's highest number of National Merit Scholar semifinalists. Elia has been vocal and visible at the state level in separating higher standards from educational gimmicks. Something is working at the top.

The shame is that Griffin and Valdes chose to indulge their egos at the worst possible time, as the district is working through several key reforms, from how to evaluate and train teachers to make them more effective to how to implement an evolving model to make Florida's schools more competitive with other states.

The board will discuss Elia's evaluation Tuesday. It should use the opportunity to move beyond hurt feelings and engage in a serious discussion of the challenges the board and the superintendent face together.

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Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Big Sugar remains king in Florida. Just three of the state’s 27 House members voted for an amendment to the farm bill late Thursday that would have started unwinding the needless government supports for sugar that gouge taxpayers. Predictably, the am...
Published: 05/18/18
Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s lawsuit against the nation’s largest drug makers and distributors marks a moment of awakening in the state’s battle to recover from the opioid crisis. In blunt, forceful language, Bondi accuses these companies of ...
Published: 05/18/18
Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestra’s violin program for at-risk kids

Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestra’s violin program for at-risk kids

This is music to the ears. Members of the Florida Orchestra will introduce at-risk students to the violin this summer at some Hillsborough recreation centers. For free.An $80,000 grant to the University Area Community Development Corp. will pay for s...
Published: 05/17/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Trump backs off China tariff threat as China pumps money into a Trump family project

Trump backs off China tariff threat as China pumps money into a Trump family project

In barely six weeks, President Donald Trump has gone from threatening to impose $150 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods to extending a lifeline to ZTE, a Chinese cell phone company that violated U.S. sanctions by doing business with Iran and North K...
Published: 05/17/18
Editorial: Activism as seniors helps put Hillsborough graduates on the right path

Editorial: Activism as seniors helps put Hillsborough graduates on the right path

Lots of teenagers are walking together this week in Hillsborough County, a practice they’ve grown accustomed to during this remarkable school year.We can only hope they keep walking for the rest of their lives.Tens of thousands of them this week are ...
Published: 05/17/18
Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s lawsuit against the nation’s largest drug makers and distributors marks a moment of awakening in the state’s battle to recover from the opioid crisis. In blunt, forceful language, Bondi accuses these companies of ...
Published: 05/16/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Editorial: Johns Hopkins All Children’s should be more open about mistakes

Editorial: Johns Hopkins All Children’s should be more open about mistakes

A state investigation raises even more concern about medical errors at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital and the venerable St. Petersburg institution’s lack of candor to the community. Regulators have determined the hospital broke Florida law by ...
Published: 05/16/18
Updated: 05/17/18
Editorial: St. Petersburg recycling worth the effort despite cost issues

Editorial: St. Petersburg recycling worth the effort despite cost issues

St. Petersburg’s 3-year-old recycling program has reached an undesirable tipping point, with operating costs exceeding the income from selling the recyclable materials. The shift is driven by falling commodity prices and new policies in China that cu...
Published: 05/15/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Editorial: HUD’s flawed plan to raise rents on poor people

Editorial: HUD’s flawed plan to raise rents on poor people

Housing Secretary Ben Carson has a surefire way to reduce the waiting lists for public housing: Charge more to people who already live there. Hitting a family living in poverty with rent increases of $100 or more a month would force more people onto ...
Published: 05/15/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Editorial: Voters should decide whether legal sports betting comes to Florida

Editorial: Voters should decide whether legal sports betting comes to Florida

It’s a safe bet Florida will get caught up in the frenzy to legalize wagering on sports following the U.S. Supreme Court opinion this week that lifted a federal ban. Struggling horse and dog tracks would love a new line of business, and state l...
Published: 05/15/18
Updated: 05/16/18