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Cosden ousted; Schools get new Council liaison

By Staff | Nov 21, 2017

Cape Coral’s newly reconfigured City Council made its board and committee appointments Monday, ousting its liaison to Cape Coral Charter Schools.

Council voted 4-3 for newly elected Councilmember Jennifer Nelson to take over the council position on the city’s Charter School Authority held by Councilmember Jessica Cosden, also the authority’s chair.

The move surprised many but school officials acknowledged Council’s authority to determine its appointive positions with Jacquelin Collins, interim school superintendent, saying she looks forward to working with the new liaison and, perhaps, a different point of view.

“The City Council has the ultimate responsibility of choosing who they want on our council,” Collins said Tuesday. “I’m OK with a new set of eyes. We’re doing everything right, we’ve met all the requirements of the audit, we’re in a good position right now.”

Cosden, who had said Monday night she would step down from the chair position if that was what Mayor Joe Coviello wanted, seemed poised to be reappointed to the council’s position on the charter school board as the new mayor sought appointments to the numerous local and county panels.

Coviello inquired whether Cosden’s chairmanship on the Authority was permitted under Chapter 26, which governs charter schools. City Attorney Dolores Menendez acknowledged it was.

Cosden was nominated, as was Nelson by Councilmember John Carioscia.

Carioscia maintained that it was under Cosden’s watch that the Charter School Authority extended the contract of former school superintendent Nelson Stephenson despite a problematic internal audit Carioscia said showed financial issues.

“The superintendent failed on many counts, yet two days after the audit showed that, you ran to him with a contract extension for two years. I was all for you until you did that. It caused a lot of problems on the Council. That audit was condemning,” Carioscia said at Monday’s Council meeting.

Cosden reviewed the highlights in her time as Council liaison with the charter Authority, which she said included teacher raises, budget trimming, a better relationship with Council and a book of policies.

Coviello, whose primary concern was the turnover of teachers at the city-operated, four-school system, said he wanted someone with fresh ideas and that was Nelson, who said she would aid the charter schools in fundraising to help them raise revenues and make them more self-sustaining.

Coviello, Carioscia, newly-elected Councilmember John Gunter and Nelson voted for Nelson, while Cosden, Councilmember Rick Williams and newly elected Councilmember David Stokes voted for Cosden.

Councilmember Marilyn Stout had an excused absence and did not attend.

“I see it as a fresh set of eyes, and some changes for what is a great amenity in our city. It’s received a lot of attention over the past year. Hopefully we’ll get a fresh perspective to that group and help the governing board along,” Coviello said.

Collins said she worked very well with Cosden and they accomplished a lot in her brief time as interim superintendent, especially in regards to the results of the audit Carioscia referred.

“She’s been nothing but supportive of me and my position and we’ve done a lot since April. But we’re happy to meet Jennifer and looking forward to working with her. We have nothing to hide, and we will happily work with any new member,” Collins said.

Robert Zivkovic, vice chairman of the Charter School Authority, will most likely take over as chair, at least for the next meeting. The board was expected to hold an organizational meeting in April regarding appointment of a new chair, but can have such a meeting at any time.

Zivkovic said he is also upbeat regarding Nelson and he hopes she can handle the job with all the other things on her plate.

“Running a school is different from running a city department. There are a lot of moving arts and mothers and children are involved,” Zivkovic said. “I look forward to working with Jennifer. I hope she can put in the time, because to do it right, there is a commitment.”

Cosden declined comment after the meeting.

While the main business of Monday’s meeting -?the first of the new board since the Nov. 7 municipal election – was Council appointments, the meeting also included pomp and circumstance as Coviello, Nelson, Gunter and Stokes were sworn in to begin their first terms on the Cape Coral City Council and Williams was sworn in for his second.

The first order of business was selecting a mayor pro tem, to which Williams was named for the third year. Williams was also named as the city representative to many of the state and regional boards, including the Florida and Southwest Florida Leagues of Cities and the Florida League of Mayors.

The new council also voted on its first resolutions, voting unanimously on waiving the procurement process for the issuance of water and sewer revenue bonds, and to urge Congress to preserve the ta-exempt status on interest from municipal bonds.

Coviello said he believes the first post-election meeting went well.

“I was excited for the opportunity. The words meant something, and I hope to carry out the office to the best of my ability,” Coviello said. “I’ve been in that chair in candidate forums. It wasn’t foreign to me. I felt pretty comfortable.”

The Committee of the Whole, or workshop, meeting planned for Nov. 24 was cancelled. The next City Council meeting will be on Dec. 4 at 4:30 p.m. in council chambers.