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Manatee Schools' Transition Team Issues Scathing Report


BRADENTON – Upon accepting the position as Manatee Schools' new superintendent, Rick Mills put together a transition team headed by former Seminole Schools Superintendent Bill Vogel, and made up of some of the top educational administrators in the state. The group spent a week reviewing each department, and its highly-anticipated report explains in detail, just how “dysfunctional” the district had become under former superintendent Tim McGonegal.

In a 57-page report that offered many suggestions for moving forward, the group faulted the district for a culture in which communication was so poor and leadership so absent, that collaboration and shared vision was all but impossible. It said that while there was evidence that some sort of strategic plan had once been created, it became largely irrelevant in what was a “system of schools and departments rather than a school system.”

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photo by Dennis Maley

The group cited a widespread lack of trust, a culture of fear and a near complete absence of accountability in a district that practiced “leadership by exception.” Rather than a “commitment to excellence,” the report said that Manatee Schools suffered from a culture of “reaction” that was often hampered by a widespread perception that the financial data the district was operating on was incorrect.

The report said that while it is evident that “board members have individual goals for the district, they lack a shared vision and purpose.” Perhaps most telling observation for an administration long-seen as a patronage system, in which personal connections meant more than qualifications in terms of professional ascent, the report said that most district personnel “say they want change, but few embrace change especially if it affects them or their friends.”

Reviewing four years of budget information, the team found that variances in the adopted budgets vs. actual results were significant. It recommended the current internal audit office be abolished with its responsibilities transferred to a committee comprised of members with auditing and/or finance backgrounds. It also made several recommendations in terms of finding much-needed revenues, many of which are already part of Mills' previously-released Cost Recovery Plan.

Perhaps the biggest change in structure that was recommended regarded the failures in budgeting, which the team did not feel the district was properly organized to task. It recommended that the budget office (currently part of the finance department) be elevated to its own department and headed by a newly-created Budget Director position, who would report to the CFO – as would the Director of Finance, the Director of Food Services (which would be realigned to Business Services from operations) and a Director for Purchasing.

The group also recommended creating a Chief Information Officer to lead a TIS department that operates on operating and capital budgets totaling more than $7 million annually, as well as a complete revision in daily bus routing. They noted several areas, particularly in payroll and HR, where job descriptions did not reflect actual responsibilities and recommended major revisions to both the departments and processes.

Deputy Superintendent Don Hall, explained that while the reorganization does not come without cost – just under $570,000 – they will be grossly outweighed by district office reductions of nearly $4.3 million. Click here to see Phase II of the district office's proposed reorganization. Superintendent  Mills said he will present his vision on how to complete the reorganization and move forward next Tuesday, June 11.


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