LWV School Board Meeting Notes: 9/13/22

League of Women Voters Manatee County
The League of Women Voters of Manatee County observes Manatee School District School Board meetings noting items of interest to the League and adherence, or the lack thereof, to good governance procedures and the Sunshine Law. The following are the major points from the School Board Meeting on September 13, 2022.

ITEMS OF INTEREST  

Invocation  was given by the new pastor of First United Methodist Church, Rev. Robin Hager,  followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.

Approval of Agenda was delayed when Mary Foreman made a motion to put an initial agenda item about an aspect of the charter of the district’s Audit Committee that she had submitted according to policy.  Chair Golden indicated that she had provided a substitute item on Friday so he pulled the initial item since the substitute item did not arrive in a timely manner.  The motion died 3-2 with four members suggesting the item is better discussed in a workshop setting.

Recognitions highlighted the Gratitude Award given to Bronwyn Beightol, Chief Impact Officer, representing United Way Suncoast for leading the charge for the Grade-Level Reading Campaign.

Reports and Presentations
Mrs. Messenger, Mr. Choate, and Mrs. Foreman represented the School Board at the Greater Florida Consortium of School Boards.  Mr. Choate reported this consortium includes twelve of Florida’s school boards that generate over 50% of the property tax base.  He reported all participants agreed that all efforts should be focused on students.  Mrs. Messenger indicated that the legislative platform of the consortium will be voted on later in this meeting.  All of the member boards must agree unanimously.

Consent Agenda  Twenty-four items passed without discussion or public comment. 

Public Hearing, as previously noticed, was held to consider amendments to School Board Policies that are in response to recent Florida legislature and recommended by NEOLA, the consultants hired by the district to assist with policy updates. [LWV Note: NEOLA has provided policy service in Florida since 1999 and is used by 38 of the state’s 67 school districts.]  One public comment inquired about the purpose of the amendments and was told the changes are due to recent legislation.  Mrs. Messenger indicated all of the amendments were discussed at workshops.  Mr. Chapman reminded us that the color coding for changes indicates green/red are in response to legislation and purple denotes board changes. Today, the board approved (5-0) amendments to   Policies 1213, 3213, 4213, 1590, 3590, 4590, 2520, 5780, 8141, 8405.

[LWV note:
  • Policy 1213/3213/4213 - Student Supervision and Welfare (Revised) - Revision due to recently passed legislative HB1557(2022) 

  • Policy 1590/3590/4590 - Personnel File (Revised) • Revision due to recently passed legislative HB131(2021)

  • Policy 2520 - Selection and Adoption of Instructional Materials (Revised) • Revision due to recently passed legislative

  • HB1467 Policy 5780 – Student/Parent Rights (Revised) • Revision due to recently passed legislative

  • HB15597(2022) Policy 8141 - Mandatory Reporting of Misconduct (Revised) • Revision due to recently passed legislative

  • HB131(2021) Policy 8405 - School Safety and Security (Revised) • F.A.C. Rule 6A-1.0018 requires "Districts" to establish policies that explain the process the School Safety Specialist will use to identify instances of noncompliance at a school with a requirement in this rule, or other state law or rules relating to safety. The revisions to this policy are intended to provide more targeted information identifying processes that will be employed by the School Safety Specialist to identify and correct instances of noncompliance.  

To see the amendments to the policies, follow this link:] https://www.manateeschools. net/cms/lib/FL02202357/ Centricity/Domain/1115/2022- 07-26%20Policies%20for% 20September%2013%202022% 20Public%20Hearing.pdf
 https://www.manateeschools. net/cms/lib/FL02202357/ Centricity/Domain/1115/2022- 07-26%20Policies%20for% 20September%2013%202022% 20Public%20Hearing.pdf 

Public Comment

Mr. Nelson continued his inquiry about changes in the budget that he does not understand.  In this case the budget went up $50 million and then went down $50 million.

Dr. Agruso spoke to the item Mrs. Foreman had requested be added to the agenda and was denied by the Board.  This is in regard to the Audit Committee and its responsibility to cybersecurity.  The Audit Committee recommends that this function be put back as a responsibility of the Audit Committee.  If the charter stands as currently written there will be no oversight by the Audit Committee for cybersecurity.

Mr. Hartman provided his word for the day tied to a biblical reference, "balance,” with a personal comment to each sitting on the dais.

New Business (Non-Consent Items/Superintendent Recommendation.
Items 1 – 3 sought approvals of agreements with Manatee Education Association for base salary terms in the estimated amount of $12,289,850.00; salary increases for the non-bargaining employees estimated in the amount of $1,161,972.00 [bringing all in this category to the closest step to $15/hr; and salary increases for the School Administrators and Supervisory Administrative, and Managerial and Professional Employees estimated in the amount of $1,778,323.00.  After acknowledging this is the earliest that agreements have been reached, each motion passed 5-0.

Item 4. Board approved a new job description and position of Medicaid Specialist.  The Superintendent explained this position will ensure all eligible services that meet requirements for Medicaid reimbursement will be filed and the position would be paid for by the revenue collected.  Motion passed 5-0.

New Business (No Superintendent Recommendation)
Voting 5-0,  the School Board approved the proposed 2023 Greater Florida Consortium of School Board’s Legislative Program as presented.  [LWV Note - Link to the agreement:  https:// legistarweb-production.s3. amazonaws.com/uploads/ attachment/pdf/1535203/2023_ GFCSB_Legislative_Program_ DRAFT_082922.pdf

Also voting 5-0, the School Board approved the Board Legal Representation Evaluation Tool.  [LWV note: The Board Attorney is hired by the School Board, not the School District.]

Workshop Item Requests

September 15 – Florida School Board Association Legislative Platform.  Chair Golden continues to advocate for Civics Excused Absence on election day.

September 30 – Audit Committee Charter changes including the item denied to Mrs. Foreman today regarding the Audit Committee’s cybersecurity audit responsibility.  Mr. Kennedy asked Attorney Dye to draft an audit committee selection process for the charter.

October – Mrs. Messenger requested the subject be Manatee School Board Legislative Platform.

Mr. Choate and Mrs. Foreman agreed that the number of items at a workshop should be limited so that items can be thoroughly covered. The Chair stated there could be more structure in workshops that might help rather than limiting the number of items.

Mrs. Foreman reminded all that the current budget can be amended by the Board Members.   Mrs. Foreman requested a Budget Detail Workshop.  A discussion ensued with Mrs. Foreman and Mr. Choate agreeing that the board should "dive into the details” of the current budget. Mrs. Foreman feels they didn’t have all the information and therefore, not transparent.  Chair Golden disagreed and felt this could occur with the next cycle of budgeting. Mr. Choate reminded all that the new board members will be seated soon and they will inherit a budget they did not adopt; therefore, he suggests that they take a "deep dive” into this budget so new board members can ask questions and understand what’s been adopted. He suggested this be a single workshop topic after November 22.

Department and Board Updates

Legal Department: Attorney Dye indicated the sale of former Bradenton Middle School [LWV note: site of current PAL program on US 301] property is proceeding in a typical manner with the buyer going through their due diligence and continuing to negotiate with tenants on the property.  Contract appears to be headed toward closing.  The Manatee Technical College and Sarasota-Bradenton Airport project is ongoing, with Phase 2 testing.  For the Team Success Charter School project, environmental testing is pending.

Operations: Mr. Wagner announced the September 22 job fair at Parrish Community High School.  He indicated a new contract with Spectrum to produce one-minute videos to be used on social media and TV stations to announce the event.  Manatee Technical College’s post-secondary night will be held on September 15 from 6-8. Two electric buses are coming in 90 days and awaiting FPL setting up charging stations.  A change for safety and security will be the requirement of an active State of Florida Badge.  Metal detectors and clear bag requirements continue at football games.

Superintendent: Mrs. Saunders acknowledged the team for their compensation accomplishments and mentioned the millage tax enabled the lift that was given to teachers.  She thanked Books-a-Million for their donation of over $4300 worth of books for students and classrooms.  She reminded all that Mr. Miner’s (past Board member) Constitution Essay Contest will be held at noon on September 19.  On September 20 she will speak at Kiwanis and Parrish Civics Association meetings.  Groundbreakings for additions at Lakewood Ranch High School and Freedom Elementary will be on September 22.

Board Comments.

Mary Foreman – On the heels of property tax millage adoption, citizens are voicing concern about taxes going up. However, she reminded everyone that if citizens are eligible for the Save Our Homes limitation program, property taxes are actually going down.  Mrs. Foreman announced that in two years Manatee School Board will host the Greater Florida Consortium of School Board’s Legislative meeting like the one attended this year in Broward County.  She congratulated Parrish Community High School for being the only school in Florida and one of 51 nationwide to be selected to put on the Broadway play, Frozen.  She clarified that the renovation project on the school board building will only address the HVAC system. 

Chad Choate thanked everyone for being prepared.

Charlie Kennedy thanked the Superintendent and her leadership team, faculty, and staff for everything running well. He stated that "things are boring again” and hopes the future school board continues to work to be boring and keep them off the radar. He expressed his hope that his last four meetings will be drama free.

Gina Messenger reminded everyone the focus should be the kids, not anything other than that. She told Mrs. Foreman that she doesn’t want anything fancy but wants the offices to make sense. She highlighted the approval of the testing calendar, and after comparing state minutes to state minutes there are 138 more minutes of testing PreK – 12 (i.e. add 10 min per grade level that students will be tested).  She had hoped the goal will be less and not more. Messenger stated she would not be at the workshop on September 15 –but supports Civics Day.  "Workshop purpose is to focus how we move forward as one, together for the kids.  Goal no matter who is here. No one can argue with that.”

Chair James Golden expressed that he sensed a rise in the level of commitment to serve. He expressed condolences to Attorney Dye because his home burned down.

GOVERNANCE/SUNSHINE
  • We realize Reverend Golden has only four more meetings as a board member and especially as chair, but it is critical that he move the microphone to his face in such a way that he can be heard consistently, especially when he turns to face others to his side.  At least two-thirds of everything he said was lost to the viewing public, and we daresay, to those in the audience as well.  This has been an issue that we have called to his attention since we began observing and reporting school board meetings.
     
  • Both Rev. Golden and Mr. Kennedy have responsibilities to continue serving the School Board with their best effort until the end of their terms.
     
  • From our point of view, Mrs. Foreman’s request for including the Audit Committee item was mishandled. Not knowing the process that is required, we are concerned that the courtesy of a phone call on Friday could have allowed her to retract the edited version and stay with the initial item submitted by her, according to procedure. As sensitive as everyone is to transparency, it is important that the board and its attorney not appear to be manipulating the process for an unknown outcome. 
     
  • We congratulate you on a two-hour meeting. I’m sure you agree with us, this would be ideal for all meetings.
     
  • We concur with the priority articulated by board members that the focus is the students. 
     
  •  While it was expressed how well the board works as a team, this was not necessarily observed in all of the business that was conducted today.
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