Manatee school board OKs employee health screening program

BRADENTON -- Three days after a scheduled school board meeting was postponed due to Tropical Storm Isaac, the Manatee County school board got down to business, approving a $120,000 contract with the Manatee County Health Department for a worksite wellness screening program that would provide free health tests, such as blood pressure and prostate cancer screenings, for the first 30 employees that sign up.

Board member Julie Aranibar said she had initially been concerned about the cost, given that several hospitals provide the same services, but after seeking more information, she learned that adding locations would increase participation in the program. She joined the board in unanimously approving the contract.

Last year, 1,413 employees signed up for the program, costing the district $95,507.

In other business at Thursday night's meeting:

n The board unanimously approved four early-release dates for elementary school students. During early release dates, students are dismissed early so that teachers can hold conferences with parents during the afternoon and issue report cards.

"Those days are so important," board member Barbara Harvey said. "At least twice a year, every teacher will meet every student's parents."

n The board voted to apply for an additional $30,000 grant to fund tutors and counselors for the Manatee County Farmworker Education and Services Program at the Manatee Technical Institute. The state has already approved $277,158 for the 2012-13 year. The extra funds would also go to transportation stipends, tuition and health care services.

n The board voted to adopt an administrative law judge's decision to dismiss a administrative complaint against Sharon Harrison, a school district special education teacher who placed an autistic student outside her classroom after the student misbehaved last August. The judge dismissed the complaint on the grounds that Harrison has not lost visual contact with the student, put her in danger or intended to cause the student embarassment.

n Two members of the public spoke against the recent resignation of Southeast High School principal Catherine Smith, who resigned Aug. 14 after the school district began an investigation that found Smith instructed an employee to alter students' grades.

"I submit that future Southeast administrators will be scared to make tough decisions," said Marilyn Godfrey, who described herself as a district volunteer.

Katy Bergen, Herald education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081.