1. The Education Gradebook

USF Poly leader provides upbeat report

TAMPA — The interim chancellor of the University of South Florida Polytechnic offered a rosy report to USF trustees Wednesday, his third day on the job at the embattled branch campus.

David Touchton, a Lakeland accountant tapped by USF president Judy Genshaft last month after she removed former campus leader Marshall Goodman, said he already has begun looking into USF Poly's finances and identified several areas of potential savings.

The list includes a half-million dollar contract for a documentary on the school's new campus that Touchton said appears can be done for no more than $25,000. Plans for that video were a touchstone of criticism from two state senators who asked for a complete audit of the campus after the contract's details came to light.

Touchton also said he plans to review the effectiveness of USF Poly's business incubators scattered around the area to see if they're worth their $4,100 monthly leases.

His update was the highlight of a conference call among the members of the USF Board of Trustees committee charged with overseeing USF Poly's transition to independence.

It came a few weeks after members of the Florida Board of Governors, which oversees the state university system, blasted Genshaft for the way she hired Touchton — saying the process wasn't sufficiently "collaborative."

The Board of Governors voted in November to allow USF Poly to break away, provided the school meets several benchmarks that are expected to take at least three to five years.

It was a decision wrought with political conflict: Genshaft asked the board to keep her USF system intact, while Goodman, backed by powerful state senator JD Alexander, lobbied hard for a split.

Since that time, Genshaft has pledged to work toward meeting those goals, and on Wednesday Touchton echoed the message.

"I think everybody understands the politics are behind us,'' Touchton said. "We're all on the same page. We've got our directions, and we're going to work on it."

Kim Wilmath can be reached at or (813) 226-3337.