Many of the problems at the Manatee County School Board have been self-induced but, at least for now, can be remedied with a change in attitude. There is enough blame to go around. The situation can be improved drastically by having the superintendent curb his temper, by reminding the rogue board attorney that he works for the board, and by jump-starting the involvement of two disassociated veteran board members.
Tone matters. Civility counts. Respect for the opinions and problems of others is not only a proper response but is in everyone’s interests. Sharing public information in Florida is not only good manners but a legal requirement. Board meetings should be like Sunday church with everyone on their best behavior, not a venue to vent or embarrass. When others are treated well, everyone benefits, children most of all.
At present, the superintendent is acting as though he was the protagonist in a petty junior high social setting, while the board attorney runs amuck. Meanwhile, our two board veterans are making a compelling case for term limits. Our present board chair, Harry Kinnan, has proven to be neither reactive nor proactive, but dormant. Note the recent county numbering mess.
Since most problems surface at board meetings, Mr. Kinnan could begin moving the district forward by taking the following actions: (1)Meet with the board attorney and review his responsibilities; (2)Instruct the superintendent that he must undergo anger management training if he continues to throw tantrums; (3)Review the board agenda with the superintendent, so that controversial matters are handled sensitively; (4)Assign a board member to monitor other Florida school operations, so that the MCSB can learn from their mistakes. There is little evidence to indicate that the current board is aware of what is going on elsewhere. (5)Provide the superintendent and board attorney a critique of their board meeting behavior. Do not pull any punches.
These steps will not solve all of Manatee’s problems but will provide building blocks to improve a situation which has become intolerable.