Editor’s Note: Wendy Farrell lives in Poinciana and runs her own business, Signature Promotions, with her husband, Chris. She’s also active in the local schools and has chaired the education subcommittee for the Poinciana Area Council, a group of business owners in Poinciana who meet once at month. Farrell wrote this column after the recent decision by Osceola School Superintendent Michael Grego to retire.
Can the Osceola School District heal and move on?
The past few months have been tumultuous in the school district. We were riding on the high of all our high schools being As or Bs, of improved graduation rates and lower drop out rates … and then things came crashing down.
The real reason for Superintendent of Schools Dr. Michael Grego leaving is probably only known by a few; the rest of us can only speculate. I believe it’s a great loss to our school district, but he has made his decision and it was time to move on.
Then came the bombshell of Mrs. Barbara Horn’s motion to have him leave early. This motion (not on any agenda) was made toward the end of a special workshop (on
March 29), primarily about Gateway High School’s IB Program. Watching that video, it seemed to me and others that two out of five board members (Julius Melendez and Jay Wheeler) were out of the ‘loop’ as they reeled in shock. School Board member Tom Long second the motion, almost without discussion, and School Board Chair Cindy Hartig seemed to explain exactly what the motion was. It was a surreal thing to watch. I am not surprised that Mr. Melendez wanted discussion on it and what he said made total sense, but he and Mr. Wheeler lost the vote 2-3.
The word ‘distraction’ is being banded about, a lot of finger pointing is going on, there’s back door politicking, and each passing day the focus moves more away from the students and education. Things need to be addressed through proper channels. I’m all for transparency in procedures and accounting, and School Board members have the right to question staff. But there are ways of doing it without being disrespectful or questioning somebody’s integrity. There are rules and regulations that our school
district works to address, and issues can easily be resolved through proper channels. Ms. Hartig questioned the authenticity of class size amendment statistics, and the Florida Department of Education confirmed within days that no wrongdoing had been done by district staff. Nipped in the bud, done — move on. Maybe Gov. Rick Scott needs to investigate possible violations of Sunshine State Law with regard to accusations of collusion by board members before board meetings, if to do no more than prove nothing went on. You put it to bed and move on.
The hiring of a new superintendent is going to be hard unless we draw a line under all this ‘distraction.’ I look at what’s gone on with the hiring of an interim superintendent and all the confrontations and accusations at the most recent board meeting. I’m with Mr. Melendez on this, the decision on how to appoint should have been next in
‘command’, simple decision, straight forward. That person (Ms. Pace, the current assistant superintendent) holds the reigns until the permanent superintendent is recruited. It’s simple, back and white, that’s what happens in the Military and in Corporate America. It’s the best way to ensure continuity and stability in a transitional period. Yet the School Board (or three of them, anyway) chose another person, whom many may deem as an ‘odd’ choice — especially the general public at large.
Having been in this school district for 11 years, its evolution has been interesting to watch. Where we go from here will depend on how the leadership acts. School Board members need to remember that they are elected by the people, and the people need to remember that you get what you’re given if you don’t bother to vote. Our school board ‘leader’ needs to remember that if you look over your shoulder and there’s no one behind you, you are leading nothing. You need your ‘whole’ team’s support as much as
possible. But most importantly, the focus needs to get back to our kids and their education!
Can we please turn the page?
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In Florida politicians must not forget that they are elected by their non-disenfranchised constituents. To work against students and education is an affront to everyone, both voting and non-voluntary/non-voting public.