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Maybe this wasn't the best move for Faliero

By ERNEST HOOPER, Times Staff Writer
Published August 31, 2007


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My three kids have embarked on another school year, and this particular start has come with a higher degree of concern.

It's my 5-year-old daughter's first year in school and my 14-year-old son's first year of high school. And for only the second time in his life, my 13-year-old attends school without a sibling.

So I have a variety of thoughts and concerns on my mind: Will she adjust to kindergarten? Is Armwood the right high school for him? Should we look at a private school for all three?

Those doubts are minimized by my belief in the public school system. But, to be honest, it didn't help when I arrived at work last week and discovered through an e-mail that Jennifer Faliero, the School Board representative for eastern Hillsborough County - my School Board representative - had moved to a Davis Islands condominium.

A friend forwarded Faliero's e-mail, which focused on concerns about crime in South Tampa.

I became more disappointed when I later discovered that Faliero had not only moved, but had enrolled her children at Plant High and Wilson Middle, the two most elite schools in the county.

Don't get me wrong. My initial reaction wasn't so full of outrage that I called Berkeley Prep or contacted the governor, but I was a little bothered. Here I am dealing with concerns about the education of my kids, and where's the School Board member who should be looking out for their best interests? Sending out a mass e-mail about who robbed the Waffle House on West Shore.

That said, my concerns were somewhat assuaged after reading staff writer Letitia Stein's interview with Faliero. In it, Faliero explained that her move was temporary and prompted by her divorce and subsequent financial difficulties as a new single mother. She later offered a public apology.

"I never stopped being a School Board member," Faliero told me this week. "It was never my intent when I had to leave my house to stop being a board member.

"My heart is still there; I was just displaced."

I have a number of friends who have gone through divorces. While they have shared their difficulties, I still don't have a full understanding of the emotional and financial upheaval that a breakup creates for all involved, including the children. She has my sympathy, and I hope she can find the solace she seeks.

In fact, I know some folks will object to her personal life being served up for public consumption, but that comes with being an elected official.

As such, it's difficult to totally excuse her relocation decision. You could start with the fact that she's in violation of state requirements, but my concern is about more than just rules and regulations.

Last year, my sons and Faliero's daughter attended the same middle school. You have to know that provided a degree of comfort.

Plus, Faliero has proved to be an effective representative for all of the east Hillsborough schools. My dealings with her, while limited, revealed great concern for students in this area and a real grasp of the complexities of public education.

Hey, if she hadn't been doing a good job, I wouldn't care if she moved to Bonifay or Jasper.

The reason we have district representatives, especially in a county this big, is that we need someone downtown who has our back. Faliero has been that person. Some may argue that Faliero can still represent us while living on Davis Islands, but I know a lot of parents appreciated the opportunity to bump into her at Publix in Valrico or Panera Bread in Lithia.

The good news is Faliero already has taken steps to move back. Her oldest enrolled at a high school out here, and her youngest also has plans to return.

Having her kids in school here indicates a real commitment to the community.

Her community.

Our community.

That's all I'm saying.

Ernest Hooper also writes a column for the Tampa & State section. He can be reached at hooper@sptimes.com or 226-3406.

 

[Last modified August 30, 2007, 22:27:48]


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