Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Dr. Patton's contract extension

The School Board voted four-to-one last month to extend Superintendent Patton’s contract by two years, to 2018. The vote came immediately following the Board’s annual review of Dr. Patton’s performance.

This decision has been criticized by several School Board candidates and by members of the public in letters to the editor. At some candidate forums, candidates have been asked if they would have voted for or against the extension. The matter and various opinions about it were covered in a June 11 Naples Daily News article "School Board candidates question decision to extend Collier superintendent's contract." It seems to have become one of the key issues in the campaign.

So I thought I should write about it.

The initial concern stated by a member of the public who addressed the Board at that meeting was if Dr. Patton’s performance deteriorated during the extended term of the contract, it would be difficult or expensive to fire her.

Based on the District's history, the concern has merit. The District has had considerable turnover, with five superintendents in the past 12 years. So following difficulties and great expense terminating the contracts of the previous two superintendents (Dennis Thompson in 2010 and Ray Baker in 2007), Dr. Patton’s contract was drafted specifically to prevent such problems.

Further, the Florida Legislature passed a law that specifically limits the severance that can be paid when firing a state employee, including a district school superintendent. Specifically, Florida Statutes §215.425(4)(a) states:
On or after July 1, 2011, a unit of government that enters into a contract or employment agreement, or renewal or renegotiation of an existing contract or employment agreement, that contains a provision for severance pay with an officer, agent, employee, or contractor must include the following provisions in the contract:
  1. A requirement that severance pay provided may not exceed an amount greater than 20 weeks of compensation. 
  2. A prohibition of provision of severance pay when the officer, agent, employee, or contractor has been fired for misconduct, as defined in §443.036(30), by the unit of government.
 And §215.425(4)(b) states:
On or after July 1, 2011, an officer, agent, employee, or contractor may receive severance pay that is not provided for in a contract or employment agreement if the severance pay represents the settlement of an employment dispute. Such severance pay may not exceed an amount greater than 6 weeks of compensation. The settlement may not include provisions that limit the ability of any party to the settlement to discuss the dispute or settlement.
In other words, state law now limits severance to 20 weeks of compensation. Dr. Patton’s current annual base salary is $214,000; 20 weeks at that rate would be $82,308. Small potatoes compared to the more $555,000 paid to Mr. Baker.

But still, why extend Dr. Patton’s contract now? Why not wait and let the next Board decide, since the current contract runs through 2016? Board member Pat Carroll, who voted against the extension, said that with two, possibly three, new people joining the Board after the November elections, it would be more respectful to defer the vote until then. 

As explained by Board member Kathy Curatolo, who made the motion to extend the contract, the reason is to provide stability -- for the District’s principals, teachers, employees and community member. To me, it signals the Board’s support for Dr. Patton and their confidence in her for the next four years.

In fact, the Board did the exact same thing in 2012 following Dr. Patton’s first-year evaluation. It extended her contract, which then ended in 2014, for two years to 2016.

Here’s what was reported in the Naples Daily News at the time:
[Board members] said the extension would provide the community and the district with stability and allow Patton to continue the positive momentum she created in her first year
The district has had a high turnover rate with five superintendents in the past 12 years.  
"It sends the message we're in this for the long term," Board Vice-Chair Barbara Berry said. "We want her to be able to develop what she's started." 
The contract extension is a result of Patton's positive one-year evaluation….
 "In my opinion, this is someone we want to encourage to stay," Board Chair Roy Terry said. "By doing this, we would recognize the outstanding job she has done this year and it will stabilize her place in this community."
Another reason people don’t support the contract extension is that because the topic was not on the Board Agenda, community members didn’t have the opportunity to address the Board before the vote.

That’s a frustration I can understand. While the District council said such notice was not legally required, perhaps it would have been better to wait. Board members could have discussed their interest in extending the contract and rationale for doing so at the June meeting, and asked that it be put on the agenda for a vote at the next Board meeting. While what was done was consistent with what was done in 2012, giving community members an opportunity to weigh in would have been consistent with the open and inclusive nature of the process used to select the superintendent.

According to a Naples Daily News June 19 column, “Turns out the public will get a chance to weigh in on school Superintendent Kamela Patton's contract after all.”
It may be too little, too late. But then again, maybe it won't. 
At its July 29 meeting, the Collier County School Board will take another vote to extend Patton's contract by two years, stretching the end date out to June 2018..... 
Erika Donalds, [a] candidate for the District 3 seat, … expects a crowd. "I know parents are going to want to come out to that meeting," she said. Donalds helped organize the group Parents ROCK to fight against changes to the system's after school programs ushered in by Patton. 
But the issue now isn't agreement or disagreement on specific policies. 
"It isn't about that at all. It's the way the board ignored the public and disregarded public input," Donalds said.  
  [Donalds also] criticized the school board for bringing the matter up in the summer, when parents tend to tune out school news.

So there you have it. I thought you should be aware of this issue. As always, I welcome your comments.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Meet the School Board Candidates: District 1

In this post, I’ll share what I’ve learned from what I believe to be reliable Internet sources about the three candidates for School Board from District 1: Kathy Greenawalt, Kelly Lichter, and Jacob Winge.

All Collier County voters can vote for one candidate from each of the three districts up for election in the August primary election, regardless of where you live or your party affiliation.

Sources I’ve reviewed for this post include the following:

Kathy Greenawalt

Kathy Greenawalt spent 34 years in the Cicero, IL, public school system as a high school chemistry teacher. She says, “I am a strong believer in public schools, and I pledge a constant, determined drive to excellence.” Her campaign slogan is “Demand a Higher Standard.”

Greenawalt’s online presence is sparse. Her Facebook Page, “Kathy Greenawalt for Collier County School Board,” created this month, has 31 “likes” and no posts. She does not have a Twitter account. Her LinkedIn profile appears not to have been updated recently. She does not mention her family in her online posts.

  • BS Biology / DePaul University (1971)
  • MED Science Curriculum / DePaul (1981)
  • MED Administration and Supervision / De Paul (1987)
  • Cicero (IL) School District / Science and Health Teacher (1973-1990)
  • Morton High School (Cicero, IL) / Science Teacher (1990-2007)
  • Special Ed Assistant (2007-2012)
  • ELL (English Language Learner) Instructor (2014-present)
  • Trustee, West Suburban Teachers Union (2002-2012)
Affiliations (partial listing)
  • Conservancy of SW FL - Docent
  • St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Church - Lector, Eucharistic Minister
  • American Federation of Teachers, an affiliate of the AFL-CIO and a union of professionals that represents pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; and nurses and other healthcare professionals.
  • Illinois Federation of Teachers
Greenawalt raised $2,247 in monetary contributions and $50 in in-kind contributions, and spent $1,674, through July 4, 2014. Her largest contributions to-date:
  • $500 – ICE PAC, Fort Myers. A Google search turns up no information about this organization.
  • $500 – Collier Professional Firefighters, Naples, a union group that represents the Golden Gate and East Naples Fire & Rescue firefighters and paramedics.
  • $500 – Collier TIGER, Naples, the political action committee (PAC) representing Collier County's professional education associations, CCEA and CCAEOCAP.

Kelly Lichter

Kelly Lichter is the Founder and President of Mason Classical Academy, Collier County's newest charter school. She says, “I am a mom, a teacher and an education reformer. I am committed to making your voice heard on the Collier County School Board.” Her campaign slogan is “Working Hard for You.”

Lichter is an effective user of social media. Her campaign website (www.kellylichter.com), and Facebook Page (537 likes) date to June 2013; her Twitter account (@KellyLichter; 44 followers) dates to November 2013. Her LinkedIn profile (210 connections) lists her current position as “Collier County District 1 School Board Candidate and President at Mason Classical Academy.”

Lichter and her husband live in East Naples with their two children, Caroline (5) and Mason (4).

  • Baldwin-Wallace College – BA / History (2002)
  • Nova Southeastern University – MS / Social Studies Education (2008)
  • Nova Southeastern University – Ed.D. / Educational Leadership and Administration, General (2013)
  • Collier County School District / Social Studies Teacher (2006-2008)
Affiliations (partial listing)
  • Florida Consortium of Public Charter Schools / member (2012-present). This group’s mission is “to provide a seamless system of support that promotes the establishment and operation of high quality Florida charter schools and supports the success of Florida's charter school movement at-large.”
  • Students First / member (2012-present). This group, founded by former Washington D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, “works to ensure educators are valued for the critical role they play in kids’ lives, families have high-quality school choices and a real say in their child's education, and our tax dollars are spent wisely on what works for kids.”
  • Association of American Educators / member (2013-present). This group is “the largest national, non-union, professional educators' organization, advancing the profession by offering a modern approach to teacher representation and educational advocacy, as well as promoting professionalism, collaboration and excellence without a partisan agenda.”
  • Collier 912 Freedom Council  / member (2013-present). This group is “committed to the ideas of our American founding that created an enduring framework of limited government based on the rule of law.”
Lichter has raised $13,887 in monetary contributions and $40 in in-kind contributions, and spent $7,604, through July 4, 2014. Her largest contributions to-date:
  • $2,000 – Personal contribution to the campaign on 05/22/13
  • $500 – Ellis Naegele, Naples, on 02/05/14
  • $500 – Robert Naegele, Naples, on 02/05/14
  • $500 – Curt Clawson, Bonita Springs, on 02/25/14. Clawson, a Republican, was elected to represent Southwest Florida’s District 19 in Congress in April and is currently running for re-election.
Other contributions of note: Erika Donalds (School Board District 3 candidate), JB Holmes (School Board District 3 candidate), and Frank Schwerin (former chairman of the Collier County Republican Party) contributed $200, $100 and $200, respectively, in February 2014.

Jacob Winge

Jacob Winge is a 21-year-old college student who, while a student at Barron Collier High School (according to the Naples Daily News), “participated in the Collier School District’s opportunity for students to be engaged in the hiring of the new superintendent.”

Winge says he is a fourth generation Floridian and the only candidate who has lived in Collier County his whole life and is a product of Collier County Public Schools. As such, he says, he “has seen both the challenges and opportunities we face from a viewpoint unique from any school board member past or present.”

He has no campaign website. His campaign’s Facebook Page (294 likes) dates to January 2013. His LinkedIn profile (410 connections) lists his current position as “Chairman – Florida SouthWestern State College Republicans.” He does not mention his family in his online posts.

“Many people ask,” he wrote in a July 2011 letter to the editor of the Naples Daily News as the founder of Collier Youth Political Activists, “how do Republicans win in 2012? The answer is simple: We, as conservatives, stand strong on our principles our founders put into place. We do not compromise on anything that goes against our founders’ principles and hold true to what makes us Republicans.” More recently, his personal Twitter posts (@JacobWinge; 237 followers) indicate support for Republican political leaders including Rick Scott, Rick Perry and Rick Santorum.

His campaign literature promises that, “As Your School Board member, Jacob will:
  • Restore public trust and put accountability first
  • Bridge the communication gap
  • Be fiscally conservative and will not vote to raise taxes."
  • Edison State College – Collier Campus – AA / General Studies (2013)
  • Florida SouthWestern State College – BASc / Supervision & Management (expected 2015)
  • Florida SouthWestern State College Republicans / Chairman (2013-present)
  • Boys & Girls Club of Collier County / Volunteer, Program Coordinator: Know Your County Government (June 2014-present)
  • Florida College System Student Government Association / President (July 2013-June 2014)
  • Collier Republican Club / Secretary (2012-2013)
  • Edison State College-Wide SGA / Founding Chair (2012-2013)
  • Edison State College-Collier SGA / President (2012-2013)
  • Office of State Representative Kathleen Passidomo / Intern (2011-present, per LinkedIn)
  • Scott Walker Recall Campaign / Youth Outreach (2011)
Organizations Jacob Supports (partial listing)
Winge has raised $2,300 in monetary contributions and $0 in in-kind contributions, and spent $1,764, through July 4, 2014. His largest contributions to-date are as follows:
  • $1,300 – Personal contributions to the campaign in February ($500) and May ($800) 2014
  • $250 – Kathleen Passidomo, Naples, on 02/27/14. Passidomo, a Republican, is Florida State Representative, District 106.
  • $200 – Nullis G Thorton, Naples, on 05/14/14
  • $200 – Ken J Drum, Naples, on 05/27/14. Kenneth J. Drum & Associates is a “political consulting firm dedicated to helping candidates win elections for local offices.”                                               

I hope this information will be helpful in your decision-making process. In the coming days, I’ll be doing a similar Internet review for candidates from Districts 3 and 5 and posting the results. 

While those who requested a vote-by-mail ballot may receive it as soon as this week, Election Day is not until August 26. I hope you’ll hold off on casting your ballot until you’ve had the opportunity to read and consider our endorsements in the coming weeks.

As always, I welcome your comments and suggestions.


Correction: In yesterday's post, it was stated that one of the candidates has been endorsed by the Greater Naples Government Committee and that two of the candidates have been endorsed by TIGER. In fact, each group endorsed one candidate in each of the three races.