Source: Miami Herald
The Broward Teachers Union accused the school district Thursday of intercepting hundreds of e-mails sent by school employees to
School Board members since March -- without board members' knowledge.
Instead of being delivered to board members' inboxes, the e-mails about teacher raises, use of federal stimulus money and employee
contract negotiations went to a ``quarantined folder'' in an e-mail server, the union says.
BTU lawyers sent Board Attorney Edward Marko and Board Chairwoman Maureen Dinnen a cease and desist letter Thursday threatening legal
action if e-mail blocking is not stopped by Oct. 26. The letter says each blocked e-mail is a violation of the board member's and the
sender's constitutional rights under U.S. and Florida laws.
The accusation comes at a time when the district faces increased scrutiny after last month's arrest of board member Beverly Gallagher
in a federal corruption sting. Board members have admitted the scandal
has cost some of the public's faith in the district.
``Considering everything that has been happening recently with Broward
schools, and now this, it's no wonder voters and taxpayers are losing trust in our district's leaders,'' BTU President Pat Santeramo said
in a statement. ``District officials appear willing to break whatever laws necessary to keep their house of cards standing, but it's falling
all around them nonetheless.''
Broward School Board wants to set up watchdog committee
Broward School Board members want to talk about controversial problems that have come up in the wake of a federal probe.
BY PATRICIA MAZZEI
The Broward School Board wants to create a small committee of outsiders to independently review school district practices following a federal corruption investigation that resulted in a board member's arrest last month.
Superintendent Jim Notter proposed the idea at a Tuesday workshop meeting, adding that putting together a committee of three to five ``highly respected'' members of the community would make sense even before the federal probe is complete.
``There's things that we can do,'' Notter said. ``I want to be ready for the ball that gets thrown at us.''
The board wasn't scheduled to discuss the investigation that resulted in suspended board member Beverly Gallagher being charged with taking kickbacks, but Chairwoman Maureen Dinnen brought up several issues she will ask her colleagues to address in future workshop meetings.
``We're going to change the way we do things,'' Dinnen said.
She mentioned five areas of concern:
• The role of audits in the school district in general, and more specifically an audit released earlier this year that says AshBritt and another contractor overbilled some $765,000 in classroom repairs after Hurricane Wilma -- something AshBritt denies.
• The way the district qualifies and picks contractors, a process Gallagher allegedly inappropriately influenced.
• How much space the district has for students, now that the board has taken heat for having thousands of empty seats given a drop in public school enrollment.
• The reasons for building project delays, and the costs incurred by those delays.
• The purchase of property referred to as ``swamp land,'' which the school system bought several years ago to build a new high school in Gallagher's district in Southwest Ranches. The land was deemed unusable, and West Broward High eventually went up in Pembroke Pines.
Dinnen said she wants to clear the air in part so controversies do not follow the district when it lobbies state legislators for funding.
``I don't want people to just say at the state level, `Well, see, we fund you properly. You're just not using it right,' '' Dinnen said.
The AshBritt audit is scheduled for a workshop later this month, and board members at the meeting agreed to tackle the other issues more in depth. (Board members Phyllis Hope and Bob Parks were absent.)
Earlier this week, board member Ann Murray asked to suspend the committee that recommends contractors.
Her colleagues said they want to review how the committee works but not place a moratorium on it, since that would stop long-delayed projects in the pipeline.
``I don't think we need to stop everything,'' board member Ben Williams said. ``Just because things have come up does not mean that these things are not operating the way they should. . . . If you see later on that we have to make some changes, we make some changes. Let's go with the process.''
Some of the School Board Members at Broward