Opponents blast proposal to sell Miller Elementary's McKelvey Park

jajones1@bradenton.comApril 23, 2014 

BRADENTON -- About a dozen retired teachers and residents who live near Jessie P. Miller Elementary School passionately told Manatee School Board members Tuesday not to even think about selling a 3-acre park bordering the school.

Carolyn Brown presented a petition with 69 names demanding McKelvey Park remain as it is.

Sale opponents say they are alarmed Tampa-based developer Redstone Investments has offered $1.8 million for the property. School administrators are seriously considering the offer.

"We have not balanced our budget in two years," said Superintendent Rick Mills, who was hired to correct a financial meltdown that led to the resignation of his predecessor, Tim McGonegal.

The district has overspent its budget by $13 million and may be penalized up to $10 million by the state, Mills said.

"We are doing our best to stabilize this district. We find ourselves at a point where we have to consider these options," Mills said.

Lela Hartshaw told Mills and the school board she was "flabbergasted" selling McKelvey Park would be considered.

"You would be aghast at what people honestly feel about something so shocking," Hartshaw said.

Roz Steward, who taught 31 years at Miller Elementary, said she didn't think the area needed more business or retail.

"I am appalled at the thought of selling McKelvey Park," Steward said.

Juliana Ackles said the park helps protect the school and its loss would increase traffic and safety concerns there.

"Many people are upset by this," she said.

In other business Tuesday, school board members approved promoting Annette Codelia, principal of Bayshore Elementary School, to executive director of elementary schools at a salary of $99,000.

School Board member Bob Gause cast the only dissenting vote, saying he was philosophically opposed to giving an employee a raise exceeding 5 percent a year.

School board member Karen Carpenter disagreed. There would be no discussion about paying a qualified applicant from outside the district the same salary, she said.

"It's appropriate for the responsibility involved," said Dave "Watchdog" Miner, noting Codelia will be supervising 16 to 18 elementary schools.

Hiring Mitchell Teitelbaum as staff attorney to replace Scott Martin was approved at a salary of $110,000 a year effective May 1.

Two other appointment expected Tuesday night were removed from the agenda without explanation.

Wayne Green, regional director for the Florida Department of Education in Tallahassee, had been recommended as executive director of elementary schools, and Willie Campbell had been recommended for the director of purchasing job.

The school board also approved two contracts for professional services with Shinn and Co. One $17,500 contract is to provide internal audit services for the remainder of fiscal year 2014. The other is to provide professional validation of action plans with estimated fees of $35,000.

The school board also recognized Lakewood Ranch High School student Abigail Vigna for supporting the winning logo design for the district website.

James A. Jones Jr., Herald reporter, can be contacted at 941-745-7053 or on Twitter: @jajones1.

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