School Board Takes a Bad Turn
)2-17-21) Last month, the school board voted to hire a new attorney to replace Arthur Hardy, who has represented this district admirably for 30 years.
The vote highlighted the continuing ugly split on our school board and raised serious questions as to who is actually running the school district: the superintendent, or a cabal of three school board members.
Hardy, the present school board attorney, was hired in a different time, when the district worked together towards the common goal of educating our community’s students. He was the school district’s attorney, not just the attorney for three school board members. Administrators would frequently call Mr. Hardy for advice, as would we.
In January, the three-vote majority on the board voted to replace Mr. Hardy with the very same local attorney who had served as former superintendent Todd Bowden’s personal counsel. Can you imagine that? Who in their right mind would purposely go back to the Bowden days for counsel on how to move forward as a district?
The new attorney comes from a law firm that would investigate employees and administrators at Bowden’s request. More importantly, this is the law firm that rebuked the three female staff members who came forward to allege sexual harassment by Bowden himself.
It was sad to see new board member, Tom Edwards, side with Jane Goodwin and Shirley Brown. Edwards had shown a lot of promise as a board member. But when all was said and done, he forced minority board members Bridget Ziegler and Karen Rose to work with an attorney with whom they have legitimate trust issues. How ironic is it that three Democrats on our school board are the ones who show the least respect for the employees? This cannot bode well for the future of our school district.
The three-member majority of the board has reached back into the Bowden days to hire an attorney that many in the district have trouble trusting. People fear he will be beholding more to board member Goodwin than he will be to the other board members or superintendent. Their action sends a message, loud and clear, that the years of collaboration have come to an end, and a more confrontational future lies ahead. That is especially unfortunate since the district recently went out of its way to hire a more cooperative, pro-employee superintendent.
As I said earlier, the real question now is who runs our school district, three renegade school board members or the superintendent.
— Barry Dubin, executive director, Sarasota Classified/Teachers Association