OPINION | Manatee schools superintendent defends investigation of Kinnan, Manatee High baseball

Superintendent of Manatee County SchoolsDecember 17, 2013 

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Manatee County Schools Superintendent Rick Mills listens to public comments during a school board meeting earlier this month. FILE PHOTO/PAUL VIDELA/Bradenton Herald

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Over the past nine months, our focus as a district leadership team has been to address the many challenges and provide a vision to move this district forward to greatness. I firmly believe we are on that path. It is unfortunate that this school district once again faces a distraction that diverts energy and time away from our primary mission of educating our children.

As with the Rod Frazier case, this matter occurred prior to my becoming superintendent. However, as superintendent, I am obligated by law to investigate all claims of alleged unethical or unlawful behavior that are brought to my attention.

Media coverage on the Administrative Complaints filed against Manatee High football coach Joe Kinnan and former Manatee High Principal Bob Gagnon include comments by a member of our community characterizing the complaints as "political assassination," just the work of the superintendent and "henchwomen" in an attempt to "destroy a great tradition" and "discredit decent people."

However, anyone who reads the Administrative Complaints and the Investigative Report knows that this is not true.

What the Administrative Complaints reflect is that no employee of the School District of Manatee County, no matter how politically connected, no matter what their record of prior service, is above the law and compliance with the rules and ethics of their assigned duties as employees to serve our community, our schools, and the promotion of the best education possible for our students.

We are a county of 64 public schools -- not one. All our schools and employees are held to the same standard -- we must all abide by the law, adhere to the highest professional standards and act honestly and ethically.

I also find it disappointing that some people are attempting to make this investigation one of "us against them." Referencing people as outsiders is contrary to what our country and county stand for and sends the wrong message. Our country was founded on freedom and equality, and it was an honor to give 25 years of my life serving in the military protecting those freedoms. A valuable lesson I learned during those years is that we must all serve together if we are to be successful.

While I am superintendent, and with support of our School Board dedicated to serving all our students, all our schools, and all of our community without bowing to the loud and politically connected, we will make this a school district one for which everyone can be proud.

Our school district is more than sports and individuals. It is about doing the right thing, when the right thing has to be done, regardless of the political flack. No one should doubt my courage or the courage of our school board to do so.

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