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School Board takes on cupcakes

Published August 9, 2006

TAMPA - The cupcake has competition.

Hillsborough County School Board member Candy Olson asked Tuesday night for ideas that would make for healthier birthday celebrations in schools.

Heck, maybe even something educational.

Olson said a parent mentioned an alternative to her. Instead of slurping artificially colored icing, classmates wrote notes saying something nice about the birthday child.

That seemed to Olson the educational equivalent of, well, eating cake and having it too.

"I thought, 'That's FCAT work,' " Olson said, since writing is tested on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.

More than that, she said: "It's a memory a child will have."

Olson, who is running for re-election against Bart Birdsall and Logan Cobb, called for setting up a forum on the district's Web site where parents, teachers and community members can share ideas about one-upping the cupcake, that old standby of school celebrations.

Birdsall, a media specialist at Greco Middle, couldn't believe that cupcakes came up at the School Board meeting.

"Cupcakes, that kind of takes the cake," said Birdsall, a pilates instructor also talking about healthy food options in his campaign. "The broader issue of healthy foods in the cafeteria, which are the daily eats, is more important than cupcakes here and there."

Cobb said he was more concerned about soda sales in schools, and added, "I really haven't staked out a position on cupcakes."

Olson has also advocated for other healthy dietary options.

Earlier this year, a district committee focused on creating healthier schools recommended more physical education and eliminating fried cafeteria food, candy and doughnut fundraisers. This summer, the School Board adopted a broad plan - with few specifics - to encourage health programs.

The board took no action on cupcakes.

But they did open up the way the district buys land, spreading the work among several companies after a competitive bid process.

That comes following a St. Petersburg Times investigation that detailed numerous cases in which the district's hand-picked real estate brokers acted in their own interest instead of the taxpayers'.

The three-year contracts approved Tuesday include commissions that vary by purchase price, but brokers can earn greater percentages the more the prices fall below appraised values.

Seven companies responded to the request for proposals.

After a vetting that included background checks, the district awarded contracts to six: AAG/American Acquisition Group, Absolute Investment and Reality Services, Equis Corp., Exit Realty Consultants, Florida Acquisition and Appraisal Inc. and Kilgore Real Estate of Brandon, the only one to have worked previously for the district.

Letitia Stein can be reached at or 813 226-3400.

[Last modified August 9, 2006, 06:35:09]

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