Manatee School Board Chair Carpenter wants plaque changed

eearl@bradenton.comJune 11, 2013 

MANATEE -- In the midst of budget cuts and teacher and staff layoffs because of gross financial management at the school district, Karen Carpenter, school board chairwoman, has one other priority on her mind: a plaque hung for the dedication of Manatee Technical Institute.

The plaque lists the school board that approved construction of MTI, along with former Superintendent Tim McGonegal, who was leading the district at the time.

Carpenter, who was not elected to the school board at the time, is not named on the plaque. She wants a new plaque hung at the technical school, naming current school board members.

In an e-mail to Manatee Technical Institute Director Mary Cantrell in February, Carpenter said she felt "slapped in the face" because of the names that appeared on the plaque at the dedication ceremony.

"It is the current school board who voted the financing," Carpenter wrote in her e-mail. "It will also be the current school board who will decide to continue to help you."

The e-mail continues: "I would like to see the authority that you relied on for your decision to dishonor the current school board and to include two who have brought shame to the district."

Carpenter told the Herald that the "plaque issue" has been "blown out of proportion," and it is not a top priority right now.

Carpenter said Thursday she did not know if she would discuss the plaque at Monday night's meeting. She did not bring up the subject, even though items on the consent agenda about Manatee Technical Institute regarding construction change orders offered a window of opportunity for Carpenter to express her concerns over the plaque.

"It needs to be done properly," Carpenter said.

"This has gone on since February, but has not reached a level of urgency yet," Carpenter said. "It needs to conform to the standards we have for size, layout and date."

According to district procedure for plaques on construction projects, the names of school board members and the superintendent at the time of the contract approval for the construction manager and architectural firm appear on the plaque, along with the name of the school, name of the architectural firm and construction manager and project completion date.

The cost to produce produce a new plaque, as Carpenter is requesting, is $3,200. To put a rush on the request will cost $5,456.

The original plaque was in storage until interim Superintendent Dave Gayler had it reinstalled in March. Manatee Technical Institute is discussing mounting a photograph of the current school board from the school's opening event in February.

Carpenter asserts the current sign is too large and also complained about the former superintendent's name being listed above the board members.

Carpenter said this is not about whether her name is listed anywhere, it's about the fact McGonegal's name appears on the plaque.

"What really troubles me is that this plaque is part of continuing efforts by some, including at MTI and in district administration, in the district to honor a person who has brought disgrace, disruption and shame to the district," Carpenter wrote to Superintendent Rick Mills in April. "I fail to see why his name should be so memorialized."

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