NAPLES — Collier County School Board member Richard Calabrese’s evaluation of Superintendent Dennis Thompson put him in hot water with board members Tuesday afternoon.
But the board’s solution to rectify the issue didn’t go far enough for one School Board member.
Board member Steve Donovan and Calabrese got into a war of words Thursday evening during the board’s regular meeting.
Donovan brought up the discussion during a time reserved for School Board member concerns. He asked the board to censure Calabrese for the comments he made in Thompson’s review and for leaking the review to the media before Thompson’s evaluation Tuesday afternoon.
“His behavior put the district at risk. He personally attacked staff,” Donovan said. “His comments are divisive. The best interests of the district and the students have to remain paramount.”
Donovan added that he thought Calabrese violated several board policies, including those on board/staff communication and the superintendent/board relationship.
But when Donovan asked for a second to his motion to censure Calabrese, no board member would support him.
“I appreciate your concern and it is noted and in the record,” said Board Chairwoman Pat Carroll. “But I think what you wanted was accomplished when we deleted Mr. Calabrese’s comments from the record.”
The Collier County School Board voted Tuesday to remove certain comments from Calabrese’s review, including those he made about Chief Instructional Officer Martha Hayes and his dissatisfaction in her performance, and his criticism of the board’s decision to outsource custodial services, a decision he was not part of because he was recovering from a heart attack.
In addition, Carroll has said she will also report Calabrese’s conduct to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Council on Accreditation and School Improvement, which is the group that accredited the school district.
Donovan said he made the censure motion with a heavy heart, but said he thought the board should send a strong message to Calabrese and to the accreditation agency that what he did would not be tolerated by the board.
But Carroll said because Donovan had no second, he couldn’t continue the debate.
Calabrese did get a comment in before the matter ended, however, saying that he thought Donovan violated the board’s code of conduct Tuesday and at the meeting Thursday.
But the fight wasn’t over. After the board meeting, during a session where board members evaluate themselves, Donovan and Calabrese got into it again, arguing over Calabrese’s actions.
The fight escalated when Calabrese said he “couldn’t argue with a mental deficient.” That comment got Carroll involved again, saying she was going to put an end to the conversation immediately and that there would be no personal attacks on people.
After the meeting, Donovan said he brought the censure to the board because Calabrese’s evaluation and the ensuing controversy erased the good that was happening in the district.
“No one remembers that we are an A school district,” he said, referring to the grade the district received from the state. “All they will remember is the poor evaluation of Dr. Thompson and the conflict of the board.”