TAMPA, Fla. - The Hillsborough County School Board voted Tuesday night to extend Superintendent MaryEllen Elia's contract for another year.
The vote was 5-2 with votes of 'no' coming from board member Susan Valdes and board chair April Griffin.
The vote followed a very lengthy and, at times, heated meeting that spurred Carol Kurdell, a long time school board member, to say, "I have never been more disappointed in the behavior of this board."
From the moment public comment began, it was clear there was division.
"She should be kept here and treasured and promoted. She is a successful role model for many in this state and many in this country," Kathleen Shanahan said.
But just recently both Valdes and Griffin gave Elia an evaluation of straight 1's - the lowest possible score they could. Griffin wrote in a footnote on the evaluation that her score was only because zero was not an option.
"The way you've been known to treat employees, parents, and the public in general who you disagree with is unacceptable and I as one of your seven bosses cannot tolerate it," said Griffin.
Griffin publicly called Elia a bully.
"You have demonstrated a complete lack of professionalism with board members and staff members by cussing, yelling, and bullying," said Griffin.
Both Griffin and Valdes said the superintendent needed to be held accountable for what was referred to as the "abysmal" handling of the deaths of two special needs students last year - Jenny Caballero and Isabella Herrera.
Communication concerns were brought up several times.
"It is up to this board and me to make this a working relationship," Elia said in response. "If that occurs, then I think the district can move forward."
Elia was first appointed Superintendent of Hillsborough County public schools in 2005. Tuesday's vote will extend her contract for at least one more year.
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