Collier school board approves contracts for 12 administrators through 2011

— Several Collier County School District administrators will have their jobs for another two years.

The Collier County School Board voted 4 to 1 to approve reappointments for 12 administrators though 2011 Thursday evening in Everglades City. Board member Richard Calabrese was the lone dissenter.

Calabrese had asked that the item be pulled from the board’s consent agenda to question why the district was extending the contracts.

These are people already under contract with us. Why would we extend them before they are due? he questioned. We have a tremendous budget problem.

Those who received contract reappointments Thursday night include Chief Operations Officer Michele LaBute, Chief Academic Officer Martha Hayes and Chief Administrative Officer Mary Ann Gemmill.

Superintendent Dennis Thompson said the extensions were not an additional cost to the board.

Calabrese said the extension was not a cost to the board now, but extending them could cost the district in the future if the district needed to make cuts due to lack of funding.

Thompson disagreed.

These are positions we will need regardless, he said.

In other board business, the Collier County School District will soon accept applications for community members who want to serve on the board’s independent community oversight committee. The committee will oversee how the district uses the money it receives from the passage of a referendum in November.

The recommendation to have a committee was suggested by the Blue Ribbon Committee, which determined in September that the district was in need of the money the referendum’s passage would generate, but suggested that an independent committee be involved to keep the community informed as to how the money was being used.

The committee will have seven voting members of the community and two alternates, who will be non-voting members. The members of the committee will be elected by a super majority of the Board. They will serve for the lifetime of the committee and must have an established residence in Collier County.

The committee will not include elected officials, district employees or those who have a personal interest in the district that result in conflict.

Although Board member Julie Sprague sought to have employees on the committee, School Board Attorney John Fishbane said having an employee on the committee is fraught with conflict.

He said a teacher on the committee, for example, could result in making a recommendation that would bypass the collective bargaining agreement, or contract between the district and the union.

In addition, he said section 3.12 of the contract with the teachers requires that the Collier County Education Association, which represents 80 percent of the district’s teachers, gives the union the power to appoint the teacher onto the committee, which would take that appointment away from the board.

Sprague said she still believed employees need a voice.

“We are already perceived by teachers as no respecting their opinion,” she said. “This is just one more thing.”

Board Vice Chairwoman Kathleen Curatolo offered a compromise. She asked if the School Board could approve the oversight committee guidelines, but revisit its policies against having employees on the education and operations subcommittees.

Sprague said she could go along with that.

Curatolo recommended the board reexamine its policies for staff involvement at the board’s April meeting.

Applications for the committee will be available on the district’s Web site, www.collier.k12.fl.us, by noon tomorrow, District Spokesman Joe Landon said.

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