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Board approves no-bid contract
Three members question whether it should be awarded to a former longtime employee.
By LETITIA STEIN, Times Staff Writer
Published November 7, 2007
TAMPA - The Hillsborough School Board awarded a no-bid contract for $158,000 Tuesday to a company headed by a longtime employee.
School officials said the decision to hire as a consultant Tom Blackwell, the former general manager of construction, was justified by his unique expertise. His firm is charged with conducting a survey of school facilities, which the state requires every five years.
Several board members questioned the lack of bidding and the closeness of the relationship. Blackwell retired in late August after 21 years with the district.
"My problem is not bidding it out," board member April Griffin said.
Members Susan Valdes and Jennifer Faliero also expressed concerns, following a recent controversy over a similar no-bid consultant contract involving wellness programs.
Others defended the judgment of school administrators, who noted the district has hired outside consultants for school site surveys in the past. School Board attorney Tom Gonzalez said the district long has contracted for certain professional and educational services without seeking competitive bids, a practice that he said does not violate state rules.
"What disappoints me the most is the lack of trust in the expertise sitting in this room," said Carol Kurdell, the longest serving board member.
Candy Olson, another veteran member, seconded support for this contract. "You go, girl," she told Kurdell.
The board voted 4-2 to hire Blackwell, echoing divisions that have flared on other issues recently. Griffin and Valdes were in the minority.
Faliero left in the middle of the discussion after taking ill. Someone called for an ambulance, school spokesman Stephen Hegarty said. Emergency personnel wheeled a stretcher to the offices, but Faliero was able to walk out on her own. She was taken to a local hospital, but was said to be doing fine later in the evening, Hegarty said.
In other business, board members suspended without pay several employees accused of high-profile crimes:
- Christina Butler, the Middleton High School special education teacher recently arrested on charges of having sex with a student.
- Stanley Telfare, a Blake High School custodian arrested on murder charges in the death of a school secretary.
- Christy Ayala, a secretary at Dickenson Elementary accused of three counts of lewd and lascivious molestation of a 15-year-old boy.
Letitia Stein can be reached at email@example.com or 813 226-3400. For more education news, visit The Gradebook at blogs.tampabay.com/schools.
Principals on the move
Shaw Elementary: New principal is Holly Saia, currently principal at Twin Lakes Elementary. Shaw's principal, Gloria Kolka, is retiring.
Cahoon Elementary: Loses principal Tanly Cabrera, who was named the department manager for the Teacher Incentive Fund Grant.
Name that school
-A new middle school in Citrus Park was named for Sgt. Paul Smith, a former Hillsborough student who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroism in battle in Iraq.
-A south county elementary school was named after Doris Ross Reddick, a longtime Hillsborough educator and the first black woman elected to the School Board.
-Board members were tied on a name for the elementary school that opened this year at the Museum of Science and Industry. They split between "MOSI Partnership" and naming it after John Iorio, a prominent professor and the deceased father of Tampa's mayor. They will vote again when all members are present.