Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Politics of Money at the School Board

By D'ANN LAWRENCE WHITE | The Brandon News & Tribune Published: December 8, 2008 Mending fences at Alafia Elementary School won't come cheap. Depending on how long Grace Ippolito is assigned to shadow Alafia Elementary Principal Ellyn Smith, the fix could run in the thousands of dollars. Now retired, the longtime educator is serving as a mentor and coach for Smith at the suggestion of a 16-member school effectiveness assessment team sent to review the school after Alafia parents complained about Smith's leadership skills.

Ippolito was the first principal of Alafia when the school opened 21 years ago.
Ippolito is working under an open-ended contract at $340 a day with the school district. District spokesman Steve Hegarty said the length of the contract has not been determined. Ippolito began working with Smith Nov. 21. Her duties include helping Smith improve her personal interactions with teachers and parents. Smith and her assistant principal also will receive leadership training at Eckerd College at a cost of $4,500 each. Hegarty said this expense isn't unusual. "We send dozens of administrators, often principals, through the training each year," he said.

Depending on the expense, the funds come out of either the general operating budget or the staff development budget, he said.
Other costs were more difficult to get a handle on. Hegarty said there was no way he could extract the cost of the school assessment team's three-day visit to Alafia, followed by the time it took the team to put together a report with recommendations for the superintendent. "The team was made up of school district employees," he said. "Working with schools is part of their job." Nor could he assign a cost to the current FOCUS team charged with taking an overall look at the school's woes for the same reason. He added that the district's staff development department, which routinely provides training for staff, will provide the conflict-resolution, team dynamics, disability awareness, behavior management, professional and ethics training for the teachers, staff and administrators at Alafia that was recommended by the assessment team.

This isn't the first time problems with school administration have prompted school Superintendent MaryEllen Elia to send in an assessment team into a school to get a handle on problems. In recent years, Elia has sent teams to McLane, Madison and Van Buren middle schools and Carrollwood Elementary School, said Hegarty.

Ms. Cobbe: I request as public information the amount spent so far on the Smith case at Alafia. I also want the totals for the money spent on the four schools cited by Hegarty in the last paragraph. I would also like to know how much school money from taxpayers was spent on media specialist Bart Birdsall's case two years ago in his Professional Standards case and how much money the district has spent so far on special-ed Steve's Kemp's current case of child abuse. ldd

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