People are stunned by the Hillsborough County School Board's 4-3 vote this week to buy out the contract of Superintendent MaryEllen Elia. As they terminated her contract without cause, members have been careful not to disparage Elia publicly for fear of being sued.
So what is the back story? And why did newcomer Sally Harris vote to fire Elia?
Harris spoke to Tampa Bay Times columnist Sue Carlton, who gave this report....
TAMPA — Give him something interesting to do and he'll get to class on time, said Cornelius McClinton of Jefferson High School.
But if he knows what to expect, and it's a teacher droning on, "I'm tardy to class because I already know what we're doing," he said Friday. "I need something that motivates me to come to class."
McClinton, 17, is one of a dozen students who have been in trouble, turned things around and shared their perspective with a task force on minority student discipline in Hillsborough County public schools....
TAMPA — As the shock of schools superintendent MaryEllen Elia's firing is felt throughout Hillsborough County and beyond, people are wondering: What's next?
No plan of succession was discussed at Tuesday's School Board meeting. And word that Elia's contract was terminated without cause by a 4-3 vote, despite her accomplishments and accolades, has some educators wondering who will want to take her place....
Everybody is going on the record regarding the firing of Hillsborough County superintendent MaryEllen Elia.
So Gradebook reached out to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which committed $100 million to the district's Empowering Effective Teachers program.
Here is the response from Vicki Phillips, the foundation's director of education and college readiness:
"Over the last five years, as a result of continuing collaboration among the district, union and community, Hillsborough has developed one of the most innovative and comprehensive teacher development and support programs in the country. Superintendent Elia has been recognized in Florida and nationally for her leadership in these efforts. The foundation chose to invest in Hillsborough because of its active, engaged and caring community, including its teachers and administrators, and we remain committed to Hillsborough as long as its leaders, teachers and parents are committed to the work. As we've always said, ensuring there is an effective teacher in every classroom is a critical part of improving education for each and every student."...
Hillsborough County Public Schools Superintendent MaryEllen Elia sent this message out to her employees at 7:30 a.m. on Wednesday:
Last night the School Board voted to terminate my contract without cause. As a result, my last day on the job as Superintendent of this wonderful school district will be March 5.
I want to thank the Board for taking a stand and providing clarity on an issue that has become a tremendous distraction for our schools, our employees, and for the community. I'm not happy with the outcome, but perhaps this will enable everyone to move forward....
We are awaiting a vote on these principal appointments at the Hillsborough County School Board meeting:
Steven Sims, 47, Lamb Elementary School. Sims joined the district in 1992, working most recently as principal of Collins Elementary School.
Kilsys Garcia, 36, Morgan Woods Elementary. Garcia has been with the district since 2002. She's now assistant principal at Morgan Woods. She replaces Jonathan Barlar, who was moved to Thonotosassa....
TAMPA — Hillsborough County school superintendent MaryEllen Elia, the hard-driving, highly decorated leader of the nation's eighth-largest school district, was fired Tuesday by a new School Board majority that objected to her unusually generous three-year contract and the way she interacted with them.
"The people I represent, my bosses, are unhappy," said board member April Griffin, who has feuded with Elia for years. She made the motion before a packed meeting room to terminate the superintendent's contract without cause....
Hillsborough County School Board member Cindy Stuart is asking that the discussion on Superintendent MaryEllen Elia be moved to the top of Tuesday's 3 p.m. meeting, rather than where it is now at item 9:03.
She said Monday that she's assuming others have made the same request, and that the board will suspend the usual limits it imposes when a lot of people speak on one topic....
Will the Hillsborough County school district need a new superintendent after Tuesday's 3 p.m. board meeting? There are at least three possible outcomes.
1. The board discusses her contract, but no one moves to terminate her.
2. A vote is taken and a majority (four or more of the seven members) vote to terminate without cause, which would mean buying out the remainder of her three-year contract at a cost of more than $1-million....
TAMPA — Roberta Moore got worried when the Hillsborough County School District wanted to send her 10-year-old son with Down syndrome to a program farther from home. So she pleaded his case, twice, to the School Board in the summer of 2013.
With the auditorium packed and the meeting televised, superintendent MaryEllen Elia defended her staff. She described in great detail the phone calls back and forth, how they tried to set up a meeting with Moore and were poised to resolve the issue. ...
TAMPA — Firing Hillsborough County school superintendent MaryEllen Elia would cost taxpayers more than $1 million in salary, benefits and unused sick and vacation time, according to numbers released Friday by the school district.
In preparation for Tuesday's planned discussion and possible vote on Elia's future, the district revised the agenda to include a detailed account of the payout....
TAMPA — Keith Logan Coty played baseball, soccer and football. He was a principal's honor roll student in the first grade at Seminole Heights Elementary School, his mother said.
He'd had a heart murmur, but the doctor had cleared him, his mother said.
He died a year ago at age 6 of a brain hemorrhage, and a lawsuit filed Friday blames staff at his school for failing to call for help quickly enough. The lapse is especially unfathomable, lawyers say, as the issue of timely 911 calls was cited in another high-profile student death in a Hillsborough public school....
Are Hillsborough County School Board members being lobbied in the days before a vote on Superintendent MaryEllen Elia?
You bet they are.
Gradebook, through a public records request, received 26 emails that have come into board members' mailboxes in recent days. All but five implored the members to keep the longtime superintendent, and some were pointed in their criticism of the board for considering buying out her contract....
TAMPA — When the Hillsborough County School Board sits down Tuesday to decide whether to fire superintendent MaryEllen Elia, the margin could be razor thin.
Two of the seven members of the elected board generally — but not always — vote in support of Elia, who has led the district for 10 years. Three are more prone to voting against Elia. The remaining two are new to the board....
TAMPA — One of the best-known school superintendents in Florida, and the longest serving in recent history, could be fired next week as long-simmering tensions with some School Board members come to a head.
The agenda for Tuesday's board meeting includes a motion to end the contract of MaryEllen Elia, 66, who last month was named Florida Superintendent of the Year by her colleagues across the state....