Advertisement
  1. Pinellas

A St. Pete College institute focused on public policy is without a director. What's next?

St. Petersburg College campus in Midtown. [Times, 2015]
Published Jun. 13

ST. PETERSBURG — The fate of the state-funded Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions at St. Petersburg College has been unclear since last month, when its longtime director was told he couldn't keep his job.

College officials confirmed this week that the center, a venue for community conversations about political issues founded in 2008, is not going away. But it is headed in a different direction.

That's what a college official told David Klement, the director whose contract was mysteriously non-renewed on May 9. Others used the "different direction" language in interviews with the Tampa Bay Times, but it isn't yet clear what it means.

"A different direction — that's all they told me after eight years of service," Klement said.

St. Petersburg College offers classes in drone operation

Jamelle Conner, vice president of student affairs at the college, said in an interview Tuesday that she and other leaders at the school have new ideas for the institute and want someone other than Klement, 79, to see them through. The board of directors for the institute has not been informed of what officials are planning and had no part in the decision to replace Klement, said chairwoman Judge Irene Sullivan.

"We appreciate Mr. Klement for all that he did," Conner said. "But the college really felt we needed a change in leadership to take the institute to the next level."

Conner would not specify who decided to fire Klement, nor discuss specific plans in store for the institute. She said only that the college would like to see a heavier focus on national and international issues, rather than local. That could be accomplished by using technology, which would enable speakers to call into panels from other counties, she added.

"Been there, done that," Klement said Thursday. "Makes me wonder if they even knew what we were doing. (College) leadership seldom showed up."

Just last year, the institute held programs on democracy vs. capitalism, the #MeToo movement, fake news and climate change, he said. Prior to that, Klement organized panels on topics like gun violence and the link between mass shootings and mental health, immigration reform, school testing, the opioid epidemic and more. Speakers have visited from other states, like journalist and Harvard University professor Marvin Kalb, who came to speak about Russian threats.

"When you think about things such as legalization of marijuana, immigration, gun violence … those are all national issues," he said. "That's a phony kind of excuse. Never was there any criticisms of the kinds of programs I was doing."

The only complaint Klement heard about his work came from college president Tonjua Williams, he said. She said too many of the institute's events were being held on the college's Seminole campus. So before being let go, Klement planned events at at least three other campuses for the coming year, he said.

Sullivan, the institute board's chairwoman, declined to comment on what is happening until she meets with Conner to learn more. "I don't know anything," she said Thursday. Project director Jacqulyn Shuett said the institute is making some changes, but that she didn't have enough details to comment.

Retired Judge George Greer, vice chairman of the board, said he also is out of the loop on what the college is planning.

"I really know nothing," he said. "I just got an email that (Klement) was not renewed, and then another email that the college is considering next steps for the institute."

To Klement, it is clear college leaders are excluding board members and institute staff from discussions about what is next. He said college leaders have been meeting privately to craft plans, keeping others in the dark.

"They aren't being kept in the loop," Klements said. "It's a public organization."

Sullivan says more should come to light at the board's next meeting, on Aug. 12.

Times senior news researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Contact Megan Reeves at mreeves@tampabay.com. Follow @mareevs.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. In this image from a Pinellas County school district video, former School Board member Lee Benjamin motions to someone he knows while sitting with family members during at 2013 ceremony to name the Northeast High School gymnasium in his honor. Mr. Benjamin was the school's first basketball coach in 1954 and later became Northeast's principal in a long career with Pinellas schools that included 14 years on the School Board. He died Wednesday at age 92. Pinellas County Schools
    He was a teacher, coach and eventually the principal of Northeast High in St. Petersburg. Then he became a district administrator and later, a School Board member.
  2. Tech Data's headquarters in Clearwater. The company is one of the largest in the Tampa Bay area. TD AGENCY  |  Courtesy of Tech Data
    The Clearwater company’s stock price soared Wednesday following the report, which the news service based on information from “people familiar with the matter.”
  3. 2 hours ago• Business
    Col. Jennifer Crossman smiles as Boomer, a 5-year-old dog, sits in the passenger seat of her car during the firefighter challenge at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa. [Times (2016)] Tampa Bay Times
    Uber customers can now be connected with willing animal chauffeurs — for a fee.
  4. The home of Daniel Schuh, 82, once a well-known St. Petersburg lawyer, at 2420 Driftwood Road SE, is being demolished. Built in 1939 and since expanded and renovated, it was considered a contributing property to the recently approved Driftwood Historic District. SCOTT KEELER  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Preserve the 'Burg considers establishing a revolving fund to buy and save endangered historic properties
  5. Firefighters brought a fire at a furniture store under control on Tuesday night that resulted in traffic on S Missouri Avenue being blocked in both directions, according to Clearwater Fire and Rescue.
    Heavy smoke was reported pouring out of GreenBenches & More. Traffic was blocked on S Missouri Avenue.
  6. Former NFL running back Warrick Dunn spends time with new homeowner LaToya Reedy and her son, AnTrez, at 918 43rd St. S. SCOTT KEELER  |  Times
    The retired Tampa Bay Buccaneer running back partnered with Habitat for Humanity and others to give a hardworking nursing assistant and her son the home of their dreams.
  7. Alexandra Toigo, 32 and Sabrina Pourghassem, 23, pose for a photo at Hofbrauhaus St. Petersburg holding their signature beer mugs during Oktoberfest 2018. "LUIS SANTANA  |  TIMES"  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The beer hall’s property owners filed a lawsuit saying the restaurant missed its rent starting in August.
  8. Nearly a year after it was left abandoned and half-sunk off the Tampa side of the Howard Frankland Bridge, a salvage crew finally raised and towed the Moonraker II to the Courtney Campbell boat ramp. It is slated to be crushed. OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times
    The boat was an eyesore to those who live off Tampa Bay. Then it became a political statement. Now it’s been towed and will soon be crushed.
  9. The 40-year-old Fire Station on Franklin, which could be the future site of an affordable housing development -- if the city's developer can win some major tax credits. Clearwater Fire & Rescue
    But the proposed complex on land controlled by the city will need to win $17 million in tax credits to become a reality.
  10. The traffic signal for eastbound traffic on Drew Street at McMullen-Booth Road in Clearwater. Image by Archive
    A reader wonders why the sign at the end of Bayside Bridge instructs trucks heading north to exit during specified hours rather than stay on the bridge.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement