School board praises Burke's plan despite Kuckel's concerns
FORT MYERS - Despite school board member Dr. Jane Kuckel's concerns, the board unanimously approved Superintendent Dr. Joseph Burke's new organization plan in a 4-0 vote.
Kuckel missed the meeting because she was out of town.
"It sounds like a very efficient plan," said board chair Mary Fischer. "You have my support."
Seven Lee County School District administrators will now be getting a raise. But a time when the district's facing a $15 million deficit Kuckel questioned the timing.
"I think there's a lack of clear planning on the part of the superintendent," said Kuckel.
This isn't the first time Kuckel has been critical of Burke. Back in February, she sent a letter to board members criticizing a pay raise he gave to former colleague Dr. Deidre Hicks.
This week she sent another letter, urging fellow board members to not approve Burke's operational plan. But it didn't work.
"I'm going to support you," board member Jeanne Dozier told Burke. "And wish you all the best and success."
"I support what he's recommended," echoed board member Tom Scott. "And I too will be supporting it throughout the course of the year in any way I can."
Burke's plan calls for putting an administrator in charge of each of the district's three school zones.
"Instead of having 10 people involved trying to run around and solve an issue," explained board member Don Armstrong, "we have one person who knows the community."
Before the meeting Kuckel sent board members a letter urging them to hold on the vote. She argued giving raises to the seven administrators would cost taxpayers $140,000 in salaries and $500,000 when it was all said and done.
"What's your response to Dr. Kuckel's letter?," asked Fox 4 reporter Matt Grant.
"Bogus," said Armstrong. "Completely bogus."
Armstrong said he was "shocked" by the letter. He says the raises, with benefits, will actually cost $74,000.
"Where's the difference when she's saying $140,000 and you're saying $74,000?," asked Grant.
"Difference is," said Armstrong, "I went and did my homework."
Still, at a time when the district is facing a $15 million deficit and employees face furloughs is this the right time to give raises?
"Well," said Armstrong, "if we can make the district run more efficiently, yeah it is."
Burke declined to answer our questions. But he thanked the board for their support.
"[I'd like to] thank the board for their endorsement of the plan," said Burke. "We're going to work really, really hard...to make it work."