MANATEE -- The Manatee County School District is paying a former district employee $8,000 to coach its new executive director of communications and family and community engagement.
The district signed a consulting contract last month with Richard Jackson to provide 160 hours of coaching for Stephen Valley, who was hired Aug. 12 and earns nearly $90,000 a year.
Jackson described his job as an "executive coach."
"I have lived in the county for 20 years," Jackson said. "I help Mr. Valley understand the county's history and background and go over his talking points with him."
While Jackson said he sometimes gives Valley suggestions on how to present information, his main job is to provide background information around district issues.
"I know things about history that Mr. Valley couldn't be expected to know," Jackson said. "I give him raw information behind events and people, and he puts it in the shape he wants it."
Jackson was the lobbyist for the school district for five years until former Superintendent Roger Dearing eliminated the position.
Mills suggested contracting with Jackson.
"Big districts use consultants all the time for different reasons," Jackson said.
Jackson said he has weekly phone conversations with Valley and they exchange emails. Valley, who said he has spent a total of six hours with Jackson, said their discussions are not regularly scheduled.
"He is educating me on matters that will hopefully lead to success for me in my current position," Valley said. "It is a complex organization, and he has been able to pass on some of his wisdom to me to make sure I know the important issues. He is a wonderful source of information."
Jackson said the school district contacted him to serve as a consultant after he wrote opinion pieces for the Tampa K-12 Examiner and letters to editor to the Bradenton Herald -- one in 2011 titled "Manatee County school board wasting tax money on unworthy lawsuits."
"He has vast experience dealing with the school district," Valley said. "He has written several hundred articles for the Examiner, and more than a third of those have dealt explicitly with the school district."
School board chairwoman Karen Carpenter said she knows Jackson from when he worked at the district and thinks it was a good move to have him consult with Valley.
"He has a lot to offer not only in terms of history of the Manatee School District but also in terms of education," Carpenter said. "It is a quick way to get up to speed on education issues."