Troubling issues about superintendent's leadership

April 27, 2014 

In the marathon Manatee school board meeting of April 22, a fundamental question regarding Superintendent Rick Mills' leadership style surfaced.Two issues in particular were troubling:1. The proposed sale of the McKelvey Park property.

2. An unwillingness of Mr. Mills to approve an amendment allowing Byron Shinn's firm to provide audit services through June 30.

A series of speakers, one more eloquent than the last, extolled the value of the McKelvey property to the students, teachers, and neighbors of Miller Elementary School. They described the wetland effect, safety benefit, recreational opportunities, and the peace and quiet the park provides.

A welcome shelter in an increasingly crowded city, McKelvey was portrayed as a treasure to which you cannot attach a price tag.

Mr. Mills was unwilling or unable to grasp this point and appears determined to sell the three-acre park in a hurry.

Even more disturbing was Mr. Mills' contention that the district needed to save $17,500 rather than sustain a badly needed audit rhythm for the district budget.

His demand of the board that they trust him on budget matters flies into the face of the painful reality that we have not been able to trust a superintendent since Dr. Nolan left in 2003.

Our board members have been intimidated and hoodwinked since that time. To ask them to trust him on budget matters under these circumstances was unfair and unwise. Fortunately, they chose not to.

Regarding Mr. Mills, we can only hope our board has not been conned once again. He seems determined to balance our budget at any cost.

My basic question remains: Though he clearly has the brass to run a troubled school district, does he have the soul?

Richard J. Jackson


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