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Our Unhealthy School District


Starting in mid-2012, we began hearing about the operational and financial problems of our local school district. They became ‘the hot topic’ by September when the then-superintendent Tim McGonegal abruptly resigned. Since then, we have found a new superintendent and watched as he, over an eight month period, has put his management team in place.


Some feel that all too slowly to occur are the identification of the financial and operational challenges, as well as the accuracy of much of the financial work product. Many of us feel we have a very capable new superintendent to handle the turn around. Yet, I feel he is allowing another very unhealthy circumstance to continue to occur in our school district that deserves top priority – the mental and physical health and well-being of our work force.

Starting in 2008, there was an effort initiated that was called Health Advantage. This initiative was funded with a $600,000, three-year grant and headed by a very capable Kristi Dickerson. By 2010, our then quite-capable risk manager, Forrest Branscomb, became concerned that the effort was moderately succeeding, but not medically integrated as it should be. Thus he formed the Quality Assurance Committee and asked that I be a member. 

The committee was functioning well and by mid-2011 presented a very comprehensive recommendation document to Mr. McGonegal. As with too many situations, the only outcome was no action; only frustration. Unfortunately, we then experienced the untimely passing of Mr. Branscomb. 

Much of the effort ceased with the new risk manager, while programs languished. Presently, we are realizing the serious health status of our workforce. Adequate preventative healthcare and wellness programs are virtually non-existent and there is no core competency in the administration to initiate any meaningful initiatives or solutions. 

To exemplify the seriousness of our situation, below are some of the shocking trends and statistics.
1. Hyperlipidemia: 324% greater incidence than expected
2. Hypertension: 217% greater incidence than expected
3. Diabetes: 149% greater incidence than expected
4. Osteoarthritis: 279% greater incidence than expected
5. Coronary Artery Disease: 367% greater incidence than expected
6. Asthma: 234% greater than expected
7. Cerebrovascular Disease: 343% greater than expected
8. COPD: 343% greater than expected
9. Cancer Hospital costs increased 83.7%
10. General medical/surgical hospital costs increased 24.5%
11. Less than 1% of workforce is engaged in health and wellness programs.

Our present administration is not instituting any meaningful age and gender appropriate tests to diagnose early the diseases that are occurring. Instead of meaningful healthcare and wellness programs, we are spending approximately $40,000,000 ($40M) annually and have only ‘sick care’ and an increase of heart attacks, strokes and cancer as exemplified in 9, 10, and 11 above.

Instead of instituting initiatives and solutions to decrease the burden of disease and/or have effective care for the chronically ill, our present administration is increasing the amount of funds budgeted to hire substitute teachers for when the regular teacher is absent with illness. What a disruption of the educational process for our school children.

One must also ask where is the leadership of our School Board. You have been made aware of this situation. We are living with the result of previous boards abrogating their leadership responsibilities and letting an administration function without adequate oversight and direction. Are we getting ready to harvest the results of such folly once more?

We the taxpaying citizens and parents of children being educated in the Manatee County School District expect all efforts be made to take our program back to the excellence we enjoyed with Superintendents Whitt and Nolan. That cannot, however, be accomplished with less than a healthy workforce. Realizing that 75% of all illness is preventable, this egregious error of judgment must be corrected immediately.


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