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Regional superintendent gave back rights to product

Two weeks after a divided Pinellas County School Board agreed to relinquish copyright and patent rights to regional superintendent Carol Thomas, Thomas gave them right back.

Thomas, who Superintendent Julie Janssen put on paid administrative leave yesterday, was seeking the board action for an electronic teacher improvement tool called Enhancing Teacher Instructional Practice, or ETIP, which she said she created on her own time with her own resources. The board voted 4-3 in her favor.

But in a May 9 statement signed by Thomas and Jim Lott, administrator for the Office of Professional Standards, Thomas says Janssen and board members did not have enough information.

"I acknowledge that the Board action take (sic) on April 26, 2011, relinquishing copyright in the ETIP device in my favor was based on insufficient information, as was the Superintendent's finding and recommendation upon which the action was taken," the statement says. "Accordingly, I hereby represent and agree that the copyright to the ETIP program, and all rights that would otherwise have been relinquished pursuant to the Board action on April 26, 2011, remain with the Board."

The statement lends support to speculation that Janssen's decision to suspend Thomas, a 31-year district employee, has something to do with the ETIP.

Janssen said she could not comment further, and per state law, an investigative report into Thomas' case won't be public record until 10 days after it has been delivered to Thomas. Board attorney Jim Robinson told board members today the report would be finalized shortly.

At the April 26 school board meeting, Thomas told the board the program had been a passion of hers for several years, and was developed to help people in the district.

Several board members raised concerns. Board members Linda Lerner and Terry Krassner worried about setting a precedent for other potential projects and programs developed by district employees. Board member Janet Clark questioned whether it was developed solely on Thomas' personal time.

Janssen defended Thomas. She said the ETIP was a great tool. She said Thomas was loyal and hard-working.

Lerner, Clark and Krassner voted no.

The board-approved agreement with Thomas would have given her copyright and patent rights for the ETIP, but also said the district could use the program for free. The agreement was never signed by Thomas or board chair Carol Cook.

Posted by ronmatus at 3:47:36 pm on May 19, 2011