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Gainesville school board focused on ‘moving forward’

Members may discuss candidates for interim school superintendent

POSTED: July 10, 2008 5:00 a.m.
The Gainesville City Board of Education will convene for the first time tonight since it fired its superintendent of seven years and could identify candidates for the interim superintendent position.

Newly elected chairman of the board David Syfan said other than completing the superintendent’s evaluation, there’s not much on tonight’s agenda regarding any unfinished business with Steven Ballowe, former superintendent of Gainesville city schools, who the board fired Thursday with a 3-2 vote.

"We’ve got a lot on our plate, and I don’t know that there’s anything else about the former superintendent that would come up," Syfan said. "I think it could be possible that we could have an attorney-
client communication with the school system attorney. But I think we’ll be focused on moving forward into the future and trying to fix our budget and trying to create the budget deficit plan and trying to be sure the schools have everything they need to open."

He also said he expects to hear a fair amount of citizens’ comments at the meeting.

Syfan said an independent certified public accountant will calculate each board member’s evaluation scores of Ballowe, and the report could be completed by this evening. He said that although Ballowe is no longer employed by the Gainesville city school system, the board is still required to evaluate the superintendent every year to satisfy the board’s statutory requirements.

"That kind of falls under the no choice category at this point," Syfan said.

The chairman said he is hopeful the board will get the chance to discuss possible candidates for the interim superintendent position, which it hopes to fill within the next two weeks.

Syfan said he has a candidate in mind, but does not want to release the name without first conferring with the board.

"The board as a whole has not had a chance to discuss that," he said. "Monday night will be our first chance as an entire board to kick it around and see what we think. I am fairly hopeful that we will be able to reach an agreement pretty easily on that."

Syfan said Janet Allison, director of finance for the school system, has planned to provide the board with a report on personnel figures, including the number of people employed under the system, their salaries and benefits, as well as their annual raises. He said the state mandates an annual raise of about 2.5 percent for school system employees, but hopes the state will assist in funding that mandate.

He said personnel comprises roughly 83 percent of the proposed $61.6 million budget, and is a key factor in trimming the budget and cutting the estimated $6.5 million deficit.

Syfan said he hopes the board will not have to terminate any more employees’ contracts in the near future to balance the budget.

"I don’t know that personnel will be the targeted cut, but you’ve got to have the information before you can make decisions, so it’s the beginning of that process to see if there’s things we can do," Syfan said. "It’s sounding like, hopefully, we can have a fair amount of reduction by just freezing some open positions and not filling them for a while."

The board is currently working toward adopting a final budget on July 29. The board was unable to pass a final budget by the state Department of Education’s June 30 deadline because of several accounting errors the school system’s finance department made in recent years.



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