Steve Donovan apologizes for letter, stoking Collier school rezoning fire

— Collier County School Board member Steve Donovan admits he might have been trying to put out a fire with gasoline.

Donovan apologized to the School Board and the general public Thursday for remarks he made in a letter to the editor, which was published Feb. 2 in the Daily News.

Donovan took issue with Berkshire Lakes resident Fred Rogers, who criticized the school board member in an earlier letter. Rogers wrote Donovan “hinted darkly at information which he has that the public does not.”

“Then, following a proposal from the superintendent, which salvaged some 200 students from being yanked out of their schools and still meets the class-size requirements, the board, led by Donovan, reached consensus to ignore this and continue with the original plan, totally ignoring the impassioned pleas of parents,” Rogers wrote in the letter, which was published Jan. 29 in the Daily News.

In his own letter, Donovan responded to Rogers’ criticism, saying he had no ulterior motive in making decisions concerning Collier County school rezoning. He said he approved of the original plan because it will benefit the most students, not just a handful.

“While I do sympathize with the pleas of a few of these parents, I know for a fact that largely the argument is due to their desire not to share classroom space with children of other ethnic backgrounds,” he wrote in the letter.

Board Chairwoman Kathleen Curatolo took Donovan to task for the comments at the School Board’s after board meeting on Thursday. She said Donovan was a member of a “professional body” that makes decisions to do what’s best for students. She said his comments reflected on the board, when he should have said they were his own.

“It was not appropriate,” she said. “It heightened the emotions of many people. Given the current circumstances, what you did put us two giant steps backward.”

Donovan said earlier this week that his letter was meant to reinforce that Collier County children can get a high quality education at any of the district’s high schools. He said parents should not have belittled people who spoke in favor of Golden Gate and Lely high schools, adding parents should be willing to work with the principals and teachers to make sure transitions are smooth.

“They said they didn’t want their kids going to those schools with those kids,” he said. “If I didn’t say something, then shame on me.”

Thursday, he apologized and said he should have written that the letter came from his views and not those of the board.

“I agree, I threw more gasoline on the process,” he said. “I apologize to the board and the general public. I painted a broad brush with some of my comments.”

Connect with Collier education reporter Katherine Albers at www.naplesnews.com/staff/katherine-albers.

CLICK HERE TO READ STEVE DONOVAN'S LETTER

CLICK HERE TO READ FRED ROGERS' LETTER

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