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Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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School Board gets an 'A' in tantrums
A Times Editorial
Published September 7, 2007
We can only hope that Jennifer Faliero regrets denigrating April Griffin, her colleague on the Hillsborough County School Board - and that Griffin regrets storming out from a meeting aimed at unifying the board. It was a childish display by two people entrusted to prepare 190,000 schoolchildren for adulthood. They should apologize and move on, for the board has bigger problems, including addressing the proper role board members need to play as both insiders and advocates.
Faliero told Griffin at a recent meeting that she should change her critical style of governing or resign. It was a needless dig that calls into question Faliero's concept of open debate. Griffin was elected, just as Faliero, and she has every right to question the administration and debate the board's priorities. She does not waive rights her colleagues decline to use, she does not answer to the board and she does not need to please an administration she was elected to oversee. The staff works for the board, including her, as proxies for the taxpaying public.
But by charging out, Griffin bolstered complaints that she is unduly difficult. It was bad form and a lost opportunity for the new board member to show maturity and leadership. Griffin has an edge, and she could learn that collegiality is a tool for pushing her constituents' agenda. It also is better for operations and morale when a public board (and a major employer) is seen as stable and mission-oriented.
The episode exposed a more troubling reality with the district's operating culture. If board members are expected to go along with the crowd, what does that say about the lack of backstops throughout the entire system? The board is competent, accessible and fair, but it sometimes fails to anticipate the public response to particular policies. It also dwells too much on bureaucratic matters while failing to provide the administration with a vision for the future. A team mentality sounds good, but it can erode the unique roles the administration and the board need to play.