BRADENTON -- A former investigator, who signed an agreement saying she would not reapply for any Manatee County School District jobs in the future, has cleared the first hurdle to working in the school district again.
Debra Horne, a former district employee who retired in October 2013, was involved in the Roderick Frazier student abuse case and initially charged with failure to report student abuse allegations. She enrolled in a pretrial intervention program and all charges were dropped.
Horne signed a settlement agreement with the Manatee County School Board, which included a stipulation she would not apply for any district jobs in return for the district not pursuing any disciplinary action against Horne.
Horne and her lawyer, Scott Martin, want the school board to consider removing the provision. They are using an August 2015 letter from the Department of Education finding no wrongdoing on Horne's part as justification.
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Horne and Martin say there's no specific job in mind Horne wants to apply for now but want her eligible to be considered.
The issue comes down to fairness, Horne said to the board Tuesday.
"Treat me like any other member of the community and allow me to apply for a job that I might be qualified for," she said.
The board voted 4-to-1, with Dave Miner, Bob Gause, Charlie Kennedy and Karen Carpenter voting yes.
John Colon voted no saying the vote felt rushed.
The vote means the board's lawyer and Horne's lawyer will work on amending the contract, and it'll come back to the board for another vote at the next meeting.
It was the right action to take, Miner said.
"Doing the right thing is usually not about doing what you must do. Doing the right thing is usually about doing what you may do. We may do this," he said.
The Manatee County School Board also heard from middle school students upset with too much testing, heard updates to a new proposed business software system, and approved the comprehensive annual financial report.
As part of a field trip to the school board meeting to learn more about how local government works, students from Nolan Middle School's Government Club told the
board students feel rushed in the classroom and are tested too often. Anneleise Prium, an eighth-grade student, said it was their job as members of the student government to speak on behalf of students.
The eighth-grade students are already taking high school level courses, which causes added stress, said Manoela Dos Santos.
"As middle school students taking high school courses, we have experienced an abundance of stress," she said, detailing the test she's taken during the last two weeks.
Andrea McPherson said the students understood the data testing is able to provide, but testing also takes away from valuable teaching time in the classroom.
The students toured the fifth-floor of the school district building and met with Superintendent Diana Greene to learn more about how the school district works.
Carpenter thanked the students for coming out.
"We need to hear your voices," she said.
The board heard updates to the district's process to find a new business software system. The district will ask the board to sign off on opening negotiations with PeopleSoft, a company that has success working with K-12 school districts in Florida, according to officials. Patrick Fletcher, chief information and technology officer for the district, laid out the method used to decide on PeopleSoft.
"This runs your entire business operation," Fletcher said.
Over a five-year span, the software overhaul will cost approximately $8.5 million. PeopleSoft has worked with Seminole, Palm Beach and Lee county schools. The board will vote whether to approve the negotiations at the next board meeting.
"I know a lot of people put a lot of work into it. This is a very big business, the biggest business in Manatee County," Miner said.
The school board also unanimously accepted the final comprehensive annual financial report, which lays out the last fiscal year's situation ending June 30, 2015.
The report was signed off on by the Audit Committee earlier this month. An external audit company also found it in compliance.
In other business, the board:
Recognized winners of the Suncoast Grade-Level Reading Campaign poster contest. Students were challenged to make a poster encouraging fellow students to show up to school every day. The campaign is part of a nationwide effort to increase student achievement and make sure students are on grade level by the end of the third grade.
Approved adding Susan Agruso, a retired school district superintendent, to the district Audit Committee.
Voted to support a resolution to return the state commissioner of education job to an elected position. Colon voted against the measure.
Meghin Delaney, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. Follow her on Twitter @MeghinDelaney.