Saturday, May 26, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: School board member flunks Ethics 101

Hernando County School Board member John Sweeney compromised academic integrity to falsely puff up his son's high school scholastic record. A school district investigative report released last week showed Sweeney wanted a teacher fired for refusing to raise his son's poor grades, misled administrators by falsely indicating he had the superintendent's blessing, culled questions from a test as invalid to raise his son's scores, and portrayed the sophomore English class as an honors class in a failed attempt to improve the teenager's transcript. Yet Sweeney has the gall to seek re-election Tuesday, and Hernando voters should send him a clear message that they want better from their school board.

The district's investigation reflects that Sweeney's meddling raised concerns among multiple administrators who believed the family cheated on make-up tests the younger Sweeney took at home instead of at school with a proctor. Still unhappy with the at-home test result, Sweeney and Tim Urban, the principal of the district's alternative school, tossed out some of the test questions to raise the final mark.

Sweeney's intimidation and the fraud it perpetuated has stained the district, all in the name of college tuition. "They were just looking for the easiest way possible for the student to earn a high grade. It has to do with Bright Futures and the GPA requirement,'' recently retired Springstead High School principal Susan Duval told the investigator. Administrators said one teacher felt intimidated by Sweeney and feared for her job because she denied she had lost assignments turned in by the student as his father claimed. A different teacher said she had been asked to sign a blank change of grade form without knowing the student's name or grade. "I didn't know I was being duped,'' she said.

The 180-page report failed to identify who provided the password to the Sweeney family that allowed the online exams to be administered at home. Urban, in a written statement to the district, said he did not provide the access. He was not interviewed by the investigator and he was not rehired when his contract expired June 30. Sweeney was not interviewed. In statements to the Tampa Bay Times, Sweeney has characterized the investigation as cursory and politically motivated.

His unethical behavior, continued blame-shifting and lack of self-reflection compromises his mission as a School Board member setting academic policies for the school district. He shouldn't be allowed to remain in public office, and voters will get the chance to remove him Tuesday when they decide on the three-person race for the District 1 Hernando School Board seat.

The district investigation is considered inactive and inconclusive. It didn't target Sweeney because it is outside the appointed superintendent's purview to investigate an elected School Board member. That task now falls to the Florida Commission on Ethics, which received a complaint about Sweeney in March. That panel should do its job. There is nothing inconclusive about Sweeney's actions.

Comments
Editorial: Welcome Bayshore changes still canít stop bad judgment

Editorial: Welcome Bayshore changes still canít stop bad judgment

Itís human nature in following any tragedy to imagine: How could this have been prevented? On that score, the city of Tampa responded appropriately to the deaths this week of a mother and her toddler whom police say were hit by a teenage driver racin...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Editorial: Filling Rocky Point lagoon to build townhomes is an empty-headed idea

Editorial: Filling Rocky Point lagoon to build townhomes is an empty-headed idea

One of the worst ideas in a long time in the field of urban planning received a blessing this month when the Hillsborough County City-County Planning Commission approved a land-use change for a project that calls for filling three acres of water insi...
Published: 05/25/18
Editorial: Searching for the real Adam Putnam

Editorial: Searching for the real Adam Putnam

Send out an Amber Alert for Adam Putnam. The red-haired, affable fellow who has served capably as a state legislator, member of Congress and agriculture commissioner is missing. In his place is a far-right caricature who has branded himself as a prou...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Editorial: A strong economic case for restoring voting rights for felons

Editorial: A strong economic case for restoring voting rights for felons

Floridians are paying a steep price for a system that makes it as difficult as possible for people who leave prison to reintegrate into civic life. Gov. Rick Scottís clemency process isnít just archaic and cruel ó it also wastes enormous public resou...
Published: 05/24/18
Updated: 05/25/18
Editorial: Trump right to cancel North Korea talks on nuclear weapons

Editorial: Trump right to cancel North Korea talks on nuclear weapons

Regardless of the reason, the cancellation of the U.S.-North Korea summit to address Pyonyangís nuclear program is hardly the worst possible outcome of this high-stakes diplomatic gamble. President Donald Trump was unprepared, North Koreaís Kim Jong ...
Published: 05/24/18
Updated: 05/25/18

NFL kneels before the altar of profits

The owners of the 32 National Football League teams sent a wrongheaded and, frankly, un-American message to their players Wednesday: Expressing your opinion during the national anthem is no longer permitted."A club will be fined by the League if its ...
Published: 05/24/18

Editorial: A positive first step in ensuring student access at USFSP

As a task force sorts out countless details involved in folding the University of South Florida St. Petersburg back into the major research university based in Tampa, ensuring access for good Pinellas students remains a concern. An enhanced cooperati...
Published: 05/23/18
Updated: 05/25/18
Editorial: Banks still need watching after easing Dodd-Frank rules

Editorial: Banks still need watching after easing Dodd-Frank rules

Legislation that waters down the 2010 Dodd-Frank law and was sent to President Donald Trump this week is a mixed bag at best. Some provisions recognize that Congress may have gone too far in some areas in the wake of the Great Recession to place new ...
Published: 05/23/18
Updated: 05/24/18
Editorial: Honoring our fallen soldiers on Memorial Day

Editorial: Honoring our fallen soldiers on Memorial Day

The rising tensions with Iran, the resurgence of violence in the Mideast and the uncertainty over a nuclear disarmament deal with North Korea combine to create an unsettling time this Memorial Day. These grave threats to peace are another reminder of...
Updated: 12 hours ago

Another voice: The chutzpah of these men

A new phase of the #MeToo movement may be upon us. Call it the "not so fast" era: Powerful men who plotted career comebacks mere months after being taken down by accusations of sexual misconduct now face even more alarming claims.Mario Batali, the ce...
Published: 05/22/18
Updated: 05/23/18