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Citrus schools should listen to all employees

I take exception to the comments Citrus County School Board Chairman Carl Hansen made at the board meeting April 29. He stated, "I have the feeling that there are some district employees and staff who feel that they need to have a say in everything that goes on. Well, they don't."

Excuse me, but I do not believe that being an employee (What is the difference, Mr. Hansen, between employees and staff?) of the school district means I have lost my rights as a citizen. I realize that perhaps, in reading and not hearing the comment, there may be some change in context _ but I don't believe it was significant.

Perhaps I am wrong, but aren't the board members and superintendent representatives of the community elected by popular vote? And don't we live in America, which is a democracy, not a dictatorship? According to Webster's Second New Riverside Dictionary a representative is a delegate, agent, or spokesperson; a democracy is the principle of social equality and respect for the individual within a community; a dictator is a ruler with absolute authority and supreme governmental jurisdiction; dictatorial means tending to dictate: domineering. My impression of Mr. Hansen's comments tends to reflect a dictatorial viewpoint, not a representative who is reflecting the district's (be it staff's, employees' or taxpayers') viewpoints.

In the Citrus County School Board's Policy Book it states:

Page 1-3 _ School Board Elections - Membership of the School Board: Each member of the School Board serves as a representative of the entire school district rather than as the representative of a School Board member residence area.

Page 1-11/12 _ School Superintendent - Responsibilities of Superintendent _ Section 2 Administrative Duties: The Superintendent shall be directly responsible for the administrative duties of his/her office. In cooperation with the principals, directors, and supervisors . . . Section 3 Other Duties: . . . and to acquaint the public with the activities and needs of the schools.

Page 1-17 _ Policy Dissemination - Staff Review of Rules: All administrative, instructional and non-instructional personnel shall become familiar with the School Board Rules and such other policies, regulations, memoranda, bulletins, and handbooks pertaining to their specific duties in the District. (1) Any person employed by the School Board who willfully violates any School Board rule shall be subject to dismissal or such lesser penalty as the School Board may prescribe. (2) When cases are not clearly covered by these rules, the Superintendent shall make a decision on the basis of the most nearly related provisions.

Mr. Hansen, Citrus County Schools employs about 1,900 residents. Florida Power employs 1,200, and Citrus Memorial Hospital employs 915 (1995 figures). Are you really stating that, as the largest employer in the county, the employees have no rights to express their feelings and ideas about changes in rules, policies or organizational plans that may affect their jobs, the schools that their children may attend, and their taxes?

I truly believe that Superintendent Pete Kelly strives to provide a more effective school district and that his heart is in the right place. But I believe that whoever is his sounding board is truly not supporting Mr. Kelly and giving him the true picture. I feel his administrators (as a group) should be his sounding board, using the team concept that has been taught through numerous in-service training sessions. Why teach it and not use a wonderful American concept _ teamwork?

I may be support staff, but we are the pulse of this district. Mr. Hansen and board members, do you really believe this system could work if the support staff was not here? If you used our knowledge, I believe this system would be more efficient and less redundant and wasteful. Ideas are great, but a lot of ideas are not feasible. If the support staff was used in pre-planning, it might be known sooner if plans are workable, and suggestions could be made to make them work.

I feel certain that in writing this letter retribution will come my way. But I am sure I am expressing the opinion of many, and I strongly believe I have the right to state it. Mr. Kelly has tried to rid the system of the good ol' boy syndrome, but it is still here, just not as visible as it has been in the past. I recently was advised that I am not to be vocal and should follow the unwritten rules regarding situations at the high school one of my children attends, and I had to fight to be placed in the position that my supervisors had recommended.

I am not an employee who takes advantage of working for the school system. When the responsibilities associated with my job have deadlines, I normally work through lunch, stay late, come in early or come in on the weekend. I plan my vacations around the work schedule, and I have even come in from vacation to handle priorities. I believe that as an American I have the right to express my views.

I did not support Mr. Kelly's original restructuring plan, and I do not fully support the current plan that was approved. But it appears to be a little more realistic.

_ Deborah J. Bryan lives in Floral City. Guest columnists write their own views on subjects they choose, which do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.