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Manatee school board votes in new leadership team

BRADENTON -- The Manatee County School board voted in new leadership Monday night.

Board members unanimously voted in Harry Kinnan as chairman and Karen Carpenter as vice chairwoman.

“I look forward to working with everyone,” Carpenter said. “We have our work cut out for us.”

Kinnan served as vice chairman for the last year, along with outgoing Chairman Bob Gause. In addition to voting in new leadership, board members also thanked Gause for serving as leader during what was called the “most acrimonious” budget year the district has experienced.

“We made a lot of tough decisions,” Gause said referring to the past year when $14 million was cut from the budget.

Gause was beet-red during a special dedication portion of the meeting. He received a tongue-in-cheek serenade from students and others who sang a popular song that alluded to Gause’s efforts to bring harmony to the board and school district: “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing.”

“I don’t know how we kept it undercover -- that was quite a fete,” said board member Julie Aranibar, referring to Gause’s surprise.

Gause received official recognition from Superintendent Tim McGonegal at the last board meeting Nov. 14.

“He did a great job,” McGonegal said.

Both McGonegal and Gause said they didn’t always agree in the one-on-one meetings the two had with each other. But they learned to work together for the betterment of the students, district and community.

“We can disagree and come to an agreement. We’ve been very professional focusing on the issues and not on the personalities,” Gause said.

Kinnan offered some challenges he said were mastered under Gause’s leadership. He cited the millions that have been cut from the operational budget. He said the health insurance deficit, which ballooned to nearly $10 million, was tamed. And the arts were preserved, he said.

Kinnan added that “many good things happened and we’re challenged,” not just to pause, but to continue to work.

He cited fiscal improvements, academics and employee morale as three challenges.

“We ask our employees to give up a lot,” Kinnan said. “Without complaining -- they’ve followed up on what we’ve asked of them.

“With the environment and the financial mandates, it will be an extremely challenging year.”

He says he looks at it with real opportunity to do new things particularly in the area of academics, stressing charter schools, virtual education and the need for more continuity of services in elementary and middle schools.

“It is an exciting time in education,” he said.