Questions raised over board's hiring

Outside hires replaced two district veterans.

Published June 13, 2007

TAMPA - Two school district managers recently replaced by outside hires during reorganizations of their departments secured new jobs Tuesday night.

The moves sparked an unusual debate among School Board members, who typically approve the superintendent's personnel decisions with little discussion.

Several questioned the hiring process, one in which no other candidates were interviewed.

"There's a perception that in the Hillsborough County School District, if you mess up, you move up, " said board member April Griffin, the lone vote against the appointments.

The transfers involved the former heads of the transportation and purchasing divisions. Both had reapplied for their top jobs during department overhauls, but were passed over for candidates with outside experience.

Karen Strickland, the general manager of transportation since 2000, instead was named Tuesday the department's operations manager, earning $82, 316, a 21 percent pay cut.

Willie Campbell, head of purchasing since 2000, was named an administrative manager in transportation, He will earn $81, 972, a 16 percent cut.

The transportation and purchasing departments are under scrutiny and are restructuring following critical audits.

Both managers worked their way up through the district's ranks over more than two decades. Strickland started out as a bus driver; Campbell, as a supervisor of special revenue.

Several board members questioned why school officials did not have evaluations of their job performance for recent years. Superintendent MaryEllen Elia noted that annual evaluations have been a top priority since she was hired about two years ago.

Board members Carol Kurdell and Doretha Edgecomb stressed that the managers deserved a chance to succeed in positions well suited for them.

"We're asking for a change, " Kurdell said. "You can't just take out everybody who has institutional knowledge, or else you will collapse on yourself."

After the appointment, a group of bus drivers rushed outside to congratulate Strickland, who was in tears. "We've got a big job to do, and we need to move forward, " she said.

In other business, the board approved entering into a lawsuit with the Hillsborough County Commission asking the courts to clarify whether the district has to pay for improvements to roads and other amenities around new schools.

Fast Facts:

Educators on the move

Schmidt Elementary: New principal is Cynthia Malone, currently an elementary supervisor.

Nelson Elementary: New principal is Cindy Guy, currently assistant principal at the school.

Ippolito Elementary: New principal is Susan Brill, currently assistant principal at the school.

Supervisor of charter schools: Jenna Hodgens, currently a resource teacher.