Board member must show more dedication

Published May 3, 2007

Pasco School Board member Allen Altman called it the most gut-wrenching decision he's had to make in his six months of elected public service. The plan to allow seniors to walk at commencement ceremonies even if they failed the required FCAT had been dissected by students, teachers, guidance counselors, principals, district administrators, community members and superintendent Heather Fiorentino. Nearly everyone weighed in on the controversial plan.

Everyone but School Board member Cathi Martin.

She was absent when the board first considered the proposal March 20. She was missing again Tuesday when the board approved the commencement policy on a 3-1 vote.

If she were a senior, she wouldn't be walking at graduation because of high absenteeism. Martin has missed half of the School Board's regularly scheduled meetings in 2007 and nine of 17 since September.

Her attendance is more than a distraction for other board members or an inconvenience for the staff to keep her updated on relevant information. Chronic absenteeism denies the public representation from an elected officeholder charged with overseeing the education of more than 62, 000 children. This year alone, Martin missed votes on of how the county's charter schools operate, establishing new guidelines governing the professional appearance of teachers, and setting attendance boundaries for new schools in central Pasco.

It's not the first time her attendance has become an issue. Martin was re-elected to a third four-year term in November after a campaign in which her role in updating the county's land-use plan was called into question because she missed six of 10 meetings of a district subcommittee upon which she served as vice chairman.

On April 17, Martin explained her poor attendance at School Board meetings to the public and her fellow board members. In an eight-minute statement, she detailed a litany of personal and family health issues and just plain bad luck. After such a catharsis, we would have expected a vow to be studious, hard-working and serious about her role setting policy for the school district.

Unfortunately, she hasn't been back since. She missed the very next meeting with an illness and Tuesday she reported she was undergoing medical tests.

Dealing with a family suicide, shoulder and knee surgeries, physical therapy, the unexplained illness of her son, a car accident and death of her pet dog is a substantial list of physical and emotional burdens. Still, she could look to Board Chairman Marge Whaley, who has breast cancer, for a more inspiring way to handle adversity.

Nobody wishes Martin or her family ill health, but she has an obligation to the citizenry of Pasco County to reexamine her commitment to public service. Failing to perform the duties of school board member is just adding to her growing list of hardships.

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