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School Authority also set to meet today

By Staff | Apr 21, 2017

With an interim superintendent and an agreement to begin to work together, the chairperson of the Cape Coral Charter School Authority hopes Monday’s meeting with the Cape Coral City Council – of which she is also a member – can further strengthen the boards’ ability to work together for a common goal.

Jessica Cosden will wear two hats when they meet in council chambers at city hall at 4:30 p.m. for their second joint meeting.

The first one was held in February and was considered quite productive. This Monday, they will go over the recommendations of the city manager for best practices.

Cosden said it will be an interesting task sitting on both sides of the fence. There has always been a city council liaison on the school governing board, but never has a council member also acted as the authority chair. But she said she anticipates progress.

“The whole issue with the charter schools and city council is controversial. The last meeting went very well. I didn’t know what to expect at that meeting,” Cosden said. “I don’t think the governing board is resistant to having the city provide support. I hope we can walk into it with the spirit of cooperation and live in the present, not the past.”

Cosden anticipates with the departure of former superintendent Nelson Stephenson, who was released from his contract on April 4 without cause, there will be less tension.

“Stephenson called himself a lightning rod and he was. I think cutting ties and moving forward will be a new chapter for the system and the city,” Cosden said.

Council members Richard Leon and Marilyn Stout said they anticipate cooler heads will prevail.

“We’re working to ensure the system will last into the future and beyond. We want to make sure we get together and make policies that create a strong foundation for the future,” Leon said. “It’s been a rough process because there’s been a lot of emotion. We need to digest the issues, dissect them and solve them.”

“I am glad that (Jackie) Collins will be the interim. I think Stephenson was the biggest problem. I think he said some things that weren’t necessarily true,” Stout said. “I had that experience with him and I imagine others did, too.”

Stephenson, who the school authority supported, bore the brunt of criticism some on Council, including Mayor Marni Sawicki, levied at the municipal system over the past few months.

The school governing board also will hold its next regular meeting today at 9 a.m. in council chambers. Cosden said it shouldn’t be eventful, with the search for a new school superintendent not expected to draw much discussion yet.

“We started the process of searching at the last meeting, so we’re waiting to see what applications come in,” Cosden said. “(Jacqueline) Collins will keep that interim position for several months until we find someone more permanent.”

Cosden said many of the superintendent candidates have already been hired for next year, though some candidates could become available this summer. That means Collins could be in charge at the start of the next school year in August.

Following the regular meeting will be a budget workshop, where the authority will see what they’re working with for the next year, Cosden said.

Both meetings are open to the public.

Cape Coral City Hall is at 1015 Cultural Park Blvd.