Collier School District’s Textbook Review Selection Process Violates Sunshine Law

By Steve Bracci:

 

In follow-up to yesterday’s post about the School District leaving parents off of its textbook review committees, it would also appear that the closed-door textbook review selection process violates Florida’s Sunshine Law.  A committee — such as a textbook review committee — cannot meet privately and “eliminate” or “rank” possible choices, even if they only make a “recommendation.”  Even if the school board has the ultimate final decision, the lower committee cannot do this outside of the Sunshine.

Here, the textbook review committees met privately and eliminated textbook choices down to one book per subject.  That one choice was then recommended to the School Board on 4/11/2017.  The School Board — having only one choice per subject to choose from — voted to adopt the recommendations.  A classic “rubber stamp.”

The law is clear, as summarized in a court opinion called  “Silver Express.”  (click case name for link):

Governmental advisory committees which have offered up structured recommendations such as here involved—at least those recommendations which eliminate opportunities for alternative choices by the final authority, or which rank applications for the final authority—have been determined to be agencies governed by the Sunshine Law. . . . .  In Spillis Candela & Partners, Inc. v. Centrust Savings Bank, 535 So.2d 694 (Fla. 3d DCA 1988), we stated:

“The law is quite clear. An ad hoc advisory board, even if its power is limited to making recommendations to a public agency and even if it possesses no authority to bind the agency in any way, is subject to the Sunshine Law. The committee here, made a ruling affecting the decision-making process and it was of significance. As a result, it was improper for the committee to reach its recommendation in private since that constituted a violation of the Sunshine Law.”

This is precisely what happened with these textbook review committees.   The met privately, they eliminated textbook choices and publishers, they made a final recommendation or selection, and they submitted it to the school board for final approval.

I believe this is a Sunshine Law violation, and thus the action of the Board to approve these textbook choices on 4/11/2017 is VOID.

Superintendent Patton Leaves Parents off of Textbook Review Committees in Violation of Florida Law

By Steve Bracci:

Superintendent Kamela Patton has once again proverbially thumbed her nose at Collier County parents, this time leaving them off of textbook review committees in violation of Florida law.

At the School Board meeting on April 11, 2017, Patton presented to the school board the final “selections” of the Superintendent’s textbook review committees.   The board then voted to approve all textbook selections.

Florida Statute 1006.283 states that “If a district school board chooses to implement its own instructional materials program, the school board shall adopt rules…which must include…Selection of reviewers, one or more of whom must be parents with children in public schools.

The textbooks for these 13 subjects were selected by committees with no parent member:

Middle School Civics, United States Government, Constitutional Law Honors, Court Procedures, Legal Systems & Concepts, Law Studies, Comprehensive Law Studies, AP United States Government & Politics, AP Comparative Government & Politics, Sociology, Psychology I & II, AP Psychology, AP Human Geography.

Click on the above links for proof.

These are important courses, and our Florida Legislature believes it is in the best interest of Florida citizens and students that the textbook review committees include at least one parent reviewer.  Apparently Superintendent Patton thinks that she is above the law enacted by our representatives in Tallahassee.

The snubbing of parents has been a theme with Superintendent Patton for years now, dating back to her planned 2013 closed door takeover of after school programs.  Back then the district announced the takeover a day before the end of the school year, and followed through with the takeover despite 700+ parents who signed a petition protesting the Patton Administration.  This episode ultimately led to the formation of the Parents ROCK organization (“Parents Rights of Choice for Kids”).

Four years later — and Patton is still disrespecting parents.

Folks, you should e-mail your school board members and the Superintendent, and demand that the school board’s approval of these 13 course textbooks must be rescinded since they are void ab initio in violation of Florida law.

A complete do-over is required — WITH PARENT REPRESENTATION!

Send your emails to:

Lichter, Kelly <lichteke@collierschools.com>; Donalds, Erika <donale@collierschools.com>; Carter, Erick <cartee1@collierschools.com>; Lucarelli, Stephanie <lucars@collierschools.com>; Terry, Roy <TerryRo@collierschools.com>; Patton, Kamela <patton@collierschools.com>