Saturday, January 23, 2016

Upcoming Naples mayoral and city council candidate forums

While only residents of the City of Naples can vote in City elections, decisions of the Naples mayor and city council affect many of us. From the League of Women Voters of Collier County:
The first of a year-long series of public forums sponsored by a broad-based civic coalition are set for next week. 
The races for mayor of Naples and three seats on City Council will be featured from 6 to 7:30 p.m.on January 25 and 27 respectively at Naples City Hall. 
The events will be broadcast live on the city's Comcast cable channel 98. Incumbent Mayor John Sorey and City Council members Bill Barnett and Teresa Heitmann will face off January 25, and council candidates Ellen Siegel, Reg Buxton, James Moon, Michelle McLeod and Wynn Phillips will discuss the issues on January 27. 
Election day in Naples is March 15. All the races are non-partisan. For council, the top three vote-getters win four-year terms. 
Sponsoring organizations for this and further state and local political forums are the League of Women Voters of Collier County, Collier Citizens Council, Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce, Collier County Presidents Council, Greater Naples Better Government Committee, Naples Press Club, Pelican Bay Property Owners Association, East Naples Civic Association, Greater Naples Leadership, Golden Gate Civic Association and the Golden Gate Estates Area Civic Association. 
Retired Naples Daily News editorial page editor Jeff Lytle will moderate. Candidates will field written questions from sponsoring groups and the audience. 
To vote in the March 15 election, you must be registered to vote by February 16. For more information, visit www.colliervotes.com and the City of Naples Election 2016 webpage here.

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Monday, January 11, 2016

Whistleblower Policy, School Calendar on Agenda for Tuesday’s School Board Meeting

Tuesday, January 12
The Collier County School Board will meet this coming Tuesday beginning at 4 PM (business meeting at 4:30 PM) at the MLK Administrative Center, 5775 Osceola Trail, Naples. See agenda here.

Five agenda items are of particular interest to me:

  • Request to approve another new charter school (Agenda Item B10)
  • Request to approve the 2014–15 Audit of School Activity Funds (Agenda Item C174)
  • Yet another attempt to approve the School Board Whistleblower Protection Policy (Agenda Item C1)
  • Request to acknowledge the Report of the 2014–15 Annual Audit by the Auditor General of the State of Florida (Agenda Item C175)
  • Request to approve the 2016–17 Academic Year Calendar

Application for another new charter school (Consent Agenda - Item B10)

Continuing last year’s spate of applications, the Board will likely approve yet another charter school. South Florida International Charter School projects to serve, at full capacity, 1394 students in grades 6–12 and plans to open in August.

According to the Naples Daily News, “the operator is registered with the state as a not-for-profit corporation and is associated with Building Hope, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that facilitates financing for charter schools.” The school hopes to find a location south of Naples Airport.

As long as a charter application meets State requirements, School Board approval is required. Since the application is presented on the Consent Agenda with the Superintendent’s recommendation for approval, presumably that’s the case.

2014–15 Audit of School Activity Funds (Consent Agenda - Item C174)

This item was discussed at last month’s Board meeting. As noted at the time, no items identified in the audit were determined to be material weaknesses, however some record keeping and bookkeeping errors were noted. At the request of Board Member Erika Donalds, approval of the audit was deferred to this month’s Consent Agenda to give the public an opportunity to review the detailed school-by-school findings. They are available for review here.

Whistleblower Protection Policy (Unfinished Business - Agenda Item C1)

This is a Second Reading of School Board Policy 3211 Whistleblower Protection. It’s the fourth time the policy has come before this Board; it was previously discussed at the August Work Session, the October Board meeting and the November Board meeting. According to the minutes of the November meeting, public comments on the policy were made by frequent critics Keith Flaugh, Dr. Joseph Doyle, Doug Lewis and Steve Bracci.

At the November meeting, Board members discussed the possibility and desirability of anonymous third-party reporting, but did not reach consensus on the matter. The policy is now coming back as a Second Reading with a minor wording change.

Hopefully it will be approved so the Board can focus on more pressing matters.

2014–15 Annual Audit by the Auditor General of the State of Florida (New Business - Agenda Item C175)

School Districts are audited by the State on an annual basis. At Tuesday’s meeting, the Board will be asked to “acknowledge receipt of the audit report and order it filed as a part of the public records.”

The District got a “clean opinion” on its financial statements, and the audit did not identify any deficiencies in internal control over financial reporting that were considered to be material weaknesses. As is usually the case with ANY audit report, opportunities for improvement were noted. Four relate to the Virtual Instruction Program and one relates to Transportation. For details, see the audit report at page 78 and the District’s response and corrective actions at page 83.

2016–17 Academic Year Calendar (New Business - Agenda Item E2)

It seems the school calendar is always a topic of much discussion and debate. Hopefully this won’t be the case this year.

The presentation posted online describes the work done by the Calendar Committee to ensure that input from all stakeholders was received and considered, and that State requirements are met. In developing the calendar, the Committee considered these priorities:

  • Focused on student learning
  • First semester ends PRIOR to Winter Break
  • Build in at least one Hurricane Make Up Day during the first semester
  • Spring Break at least a week PRIOR to state assessments
  • School ends by the end of May or early June
  • Sensitivity to the traditional and cultural observances of holidays
  • Full week off for the Thanksgiving holiday
  • Early Dismissal Days
    • No more than 7 days
    • More in the second semester than the first
    • Distributed equally across all week days
The Board will be asked to approve the proposed calendar. These are some highlights:

  • First day of school for students = August 10
  • Thanksgiving Break = November 21 - 25 (Monday - Friday)
  • Winter Break = December 19 - January 3
  • Spring Break = March 13 - 17
  • Assessment Window = March 29 - May 5
  • Last day of school for students = May 31

If any of these Agenda Items are of interest to you, let Board members hear from you before the meeting:

Kathleen Curatolo - curatoka@collierschools.com
Erika Donalds - donale@collierschools.com
Kelly Lichter - lichteke@collierschools.com
Julie Sprague - spraguju@collierschools.com
Roy Terry - terryro@collierschools.com



Help me reach more Collier County voters by sharing this post with your friends. You and they can subscribe to Sparker’s Soapbox by email at www.sparkers-soapbox.blogspot.com, “like” me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sparkers.soapbox or follow me on Twitter @SparkersSoapbox.