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Sarasota Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2018 7 months ago

School board puts policies under review

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Complaints policy among those under scrutiny this year.
by: Cassidy Alexander Staff Writer

As promised, Sarasota County School Board Chairwoman Bridget Ziegler is leading the effort to examine all of the district’s policies, one chapter at a time.

At a Jan. 23 workshop, the school board looked at its employee complaint policy as part of the ongoing review, particularly when it comes to complaints against supervisors. Board members discussed how to adjust policies to allow for a reasonable timeline and how to keep information confidential when necessary. They also discussed the need for a policy on complaints against elected officials, which would be handled by an agency other than the school board.

“We want to make sure there’s a clear path on where to go at all levels, and if you say something it will be taken seriously … and it will be documented,” Ziegler said.

Bridget Ziegler

This closer look at complaints comes after a district employee accused Superintendent Todd Bowden and Booker High School Principal Rachel Shelley of retaliating against her after she accused Bowden in 2016 of sexual harassment, and creating a hostile work environment. A law firm found the harassment claims “unfounded.” Another law firm is looking into the complaints of retaliation.

The discussion on complaints also comes in the midst of the “Me Too” movement, where women post their own stories of sexual harassment or assault online to raise awareness.

The board will discuss the complaint policy again at its February workshop.

This is just one of the numerous policies the school board will discuss — so many policies that the board will add additional meetings to the calendar, on top of regular meetings and monthly workshops.

“We have committed ourselves to going through every policy in the district, literally going through the policy manual front to back,” Bowden said. “You can see what a time-consuming effort that is going to be … We could take our monthly workshop time and spend it completely on policy and still not meet our objective of reviewing the policy manual by year’s-end.”

So far, the board has also discussed bid-acceptance and charter schools.

When elected chairwoman, Ziegler said the policy review would be her main focus.

“[These policies] are at the forefront of every decision we make,” she said.

The board will review nine chapters of policy

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