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Mitch Perry Report for 3.4.15 — Hillsborough School Board defies the critics (again) & goes with Eakins

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Yesterday was quite a day news wise. But before we talk City Council races, how about that Hillsborough County School District Board?

They did it again yesterday — going against the sentiments  of the editorial writers and newspaper columnists who demanded they take on a national search to succeed MaryEllen Elia as the district’s superintendent.

Instead, on a 4-3 vote, the board opted to hire interim superintendent Jeff Eakins, if he can come to terms on a contract by June 9.

Two weeks earlier, the same board voted 7-0 to extend a contract offer to the 49-year-old Eakins. But that was before the decision to bypass a national search to replace Elia at the nation’s eighth biggest school district angered some opinion writers, some of them the same folks outraged that the board had the audacity to fire Elia in the first place.

That public perception definitely appeared to influence board members Melissa Snively, Doretha Edgecomb and Carol Kurdell to flip their decision, which led to an intense discussion and blowback from board members like April Griffin, Susan Valdes and Cindy Stuart, who along with Sally Harris opted to stick with hiring Eakins yesterday — the same four who voted to can Elia earlier this year.

“Mr. Eakins is not the most convenient person for the job,” Griffin said at one point. “Mr. Eakins is the best person for the job. At the end of the day, we get someone who’s going to turn morale around, raise graduation rates and make sure every one of our kids is ready for the work place.”

Griffin was full of juicy sound bites during the discussion. She also called a national search  “a dog and pony show,” and defiantly said she would welcome the criticism that will no doubt rain down on her and the other three board members.

Snidely made a lively argument about the need to open up the search, and said any problems with public perception were precipitated by the board’s decision to fire Elia.

Also at the School Board yesterday, a new group called the Bay Area Activist Coalition called on the Hillsborough County School Board to begin changing its policies to address how disproportionate the punishment for black youth is in Hillsborough schools.

You’ll recall that MaryEllen Elia (including her champions in the press) emphasized the mantra that “Elections matter,” in the aftermath of her termination.

Apparently the folks in Tampa don’t read those columnists.

In one of the most pathetic exercises of democracy ever, a measly 13 percent of citizens showed up on a 75- degree temperature day to go to the polls on Election Day in Tampa.

But it’s not over yet.

The Jackie Toledo/Guido Maniscalco contest could be a barnburner in District 6. Last night the third man in the race, Tommy Castellano, heartily endorsed Maniscalco, which could help in the one-on-one matchup.

Much has been made about the anemic voter turnout yesterday. We went out to hear from the people yesterday at the polls, and some of what we heard was a bit disturbing.

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Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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