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School Board On Superintendent Search and $155 Million Cash Reserve

7:43 AM, Feb 28, 2012   |    comments
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- There was growing disenchantment with Ed Pratt-Dannals from the community to Duval County school board members.  

"I think he saw the handwriting on the wall," said Tommy Hazouri.

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Hazouri, who has decided not to run for a third term on the Duval County School Board, said they hope to have a replacement for Dannals quickly.

School Board Chairman Betty Burney said they're looking for the best. 

"We want someone who can take a look at all 177 schools and make sure that every child is receiving that high quality of education they so richly deserve," said Betty Burney.

The process will involve a nationwide search and the input from community and civic leaders.

They will not pay a consultant to help with the search, Burney said, and they will not buy out Pratt-Dannals' contract. "Grade wise we're a 'B' close to an 'A' but that's not good enough for us and it should not be good enough for the community," said Hazouri. "We need someone to take us to the next level."

Hazouri said the district's graduation rate is not good enough and having six intervene or failing schools is unacceptable. 

"We're not taking the giant leap that we need to," he said.

Board members said they're looking for a superintendent that can lead and still be an academic. 

"We know it is going to take good leadership so the board is ready to do its part. The superintendent will do his leadership part to keep it all seamless," said Burney.

Then there is the issue of the multi-million dollar cash reserve fund.












If it was hidden from board members, it was hidden in plain sight

"In the paper our revenue and expense. This is from July 29, 2011, here where it says total sources of money fund balance and assets 155-million dollars," said Ed Pratt Dannals.

Dannals said the fund was clearly communicated to the community and the board.

Board members said they were never told by Dannals or his staff if any of the money could be used to save staff and programs from cuts.

"If we get to the bottom of it I think in the end there might be some dollars that are available in some areas that we want to put specifically in the classrooms," said Hazouri.

Attorney Lindsey Brock, head of the Save Duval County Sports Fund said if they had knowledge of the millions in the school board's reserve fund it may have made a difference.

"That kind of funding allows some breathing room to where you can start developing long term solutions to address some of these problems with shortfalls in funding," said Brock.

Brock said the non profit will continue its effort to raise money for Duval county sports.

While some appeared surprised by the size of the cash reserve fund, the superintendent calls it sound fiscal practice.

Even so the the chairman of the school board plans to meet with him to see how much of the money is really off limits.

"This week the superintendent and the board auditor will sit down and take a look at it," said Burney. "It isn't so much that it was hidden but that money could be used for what we want to use it for."

Having a large cash reserve is not unusual for business or government. It is there for contingencies and it also improves their credit strength.












Ken Amaro

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