The Manatee County School Board has big-dollar decisions ahead

eearl@bradenton.comApril 23, 2013 


The Checkers/Owens Annex property at the corner of Manatee Avenue and First Street in Bradenton is up for sale through the School District of Manatee County. GRANT JEFFERIES/Bradenton Herald


MANATEE -- The Manatee County School Board has big-dollar decisions to make about the reorganization of its resources and personnel.

Superintendent Rick Mills is still discussing the fate of Bob Gagnon, assistant superintendent of instruction and curriculum, whose job is being eliminated in favor of the new higher-paying deputy superintendent postions.

While it is not clear what is next for Gagnon, Mills said he still wants him to be a part of the leadership team.

"He has shown steady leadership through tumultuous times," Mills said at the school board meeting Monday.

Gagnon has expressed interest in three posts: executive director of elementary schools, executive director of middle schools and executive director of high schools.

"I am interested and well qualified, and I look forward to moving forward with the team," Gagnon said.

These positions are open for applications over a three-week period to external and internal applicants.

While Mills cannot comment on the current application status, he said he wants to use Gagnon's skills and leadership abilities and is evaluating where best to place him.

Another part of Mills' reorganization task involves the sale of school board properties he has deemed as unnecessary and too expensive. Mills is looking at property sales to help solve the budget crisis and recover about $6 million needed to reach a minimum-required 2.2 percent fund balance by next year.

A good example of possible property sales include the "Checkers property" on Manatee Avenue and State Road 301, which used to house a Checker restaurant,

The Manatee County school board has yet to approve the sale of the "Checkers property" or the Owen's annex, which houses the Human Resources building on 1.4 acres.

Gold Glove Ventures is offering $1.65 million to the school board for both properties.

School board concerns include the amount of earnest money required in such a sale, which is $25,000 or 1.5 percent. Another concern is the property could be tied up for up to 50 days.

School board Chairwoman Karen Carpenter and school board member Dave "Watchdog" Miner want more background on Gold Glove Ventures.

"The community needs to know those involved in the deal," Miner said.

School board member Bob Gause said he wants the school board do something with the property as soon as possible.

"It needs to close by the end of fiscal year, or else we owe it to taxpayers to re-open it," Gause said. "If we need the money this year, we get the money this year, or else we need to market differently."

If the human resources building and property is sold, Mills said there is plenty of room to move the HR staff into the school administration building.

Gold Glove Ventures offered $2.2 million for the same property in 2011, but the sale fell through after school board members balked at paying a $400,000 commission. The school board bought the property in 2004 for $1.4 million.

The school board has not yet discussed how to unload a surplus of the district's 222 cars, but Mills wants it on the agenda soon.

In other action, the board unanimously approved:

• Diana Greene to be hired as deputy superintendent of instruction. Greene was a candidate for superintendent earlier this year.

• Hiring Don Hall as deputy superintendent of operations. He worked with Mills in Minneapolis. Both deputy superintendents will be paid $132,503 annually.

• Donating computers to the MTI Foundation to be refurbished by students and redistributed to needy families and students;

Erica Earl, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081.

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