Bay School Issues Aired

By: Sabrina Zimring
By: Sabrina Zimring

In his deposition, Bay District School Superintendent James McCalister admits he brought Larry Bolinger to Bay High in 2005 to turn the school around.

In that one year span Bolinger brought the school from a double D institution to a very high "C" school, but according to the depositions, not everyone was happy with Bolinger's methods.

Bolinger claims several school employees and public boosters were unhappy about not having as much freedom or authority as they had before his arrival, but according to McCalister's sworn statement, it was a top 10 list that convinced him Boliger had to be transferred to Jinks Middle School this year.

Bolinger told McCalister he'd planned to release the school academic top 10 list on a Friday. Instead he did it the day before. Bolinger claimed it was a spur of the moment decision, but McCalister claims Bolinger planned it all along and considered it an act of insubordination.

A: I would say it was a big factor.
Q: What other factors were there?
A: I would say that would be the factor.
Q: The factor?
A: Yes.
Q: So had he waited until Friday to make that announcement, is it your testimony here today that you would have recommended him back for additional years at Bay High School an additional year at bay high school?
A: Probably.

When asked if this incident was an important factor in his decision to move Bolinger out of Bay High School, McCalister said is was a big factor.

Minutes later says it was "the factor." When asked if Bolinger would have been welcome at Bay High another year had he waited until Friday to release the list, McCalister answered "probably."

McCalister also claims Bolinger recruited local business leaders to pressure him into changing his mind about funding for a new baseball complex. He says within an hour after he turned down Bolinger, two community boosters, William Harrison and Randall McElheney called and asked for an appointment to discuss the baseball field.

McCalister testified he thought Bolinger put the men up to it, Bolinger says that's not the case. Bolinger testified that McCaliser was bending to political pressure of several employees at Bay High School, including then magnet school coordinator Kathy Barr.

Bolinger released this statement to Newschannel 7 Tuesday:

"Since June 21, 2005, when Mr. Mccalister asked me to ‘fix a big problem for him in the district,’ meaning take over Bay High, I have worked diligently to do just that: fix it. I knew that it would not be easy, and I knew that it would take more than one year. He promised to support me through this time period, which we agreed would be four years. I simply want to honor my commitment to the students, staff and community of Bay High School and finish my job. On Tuesday, October 24, 2006, I gave a deposition where I swore ‘to tell the truth, the whole truth,’ and that is what I did; I told the truth."

The administrative hearing on this issue is set for tomorrow. McCalister is challenging the school board's legal authority to overturn his decision to transfer Bolinger to Jinks Middle School.

If the administrative law judge rules in favor of the school board it could have a major impact on all Florida's school superintendents to defend their administrative personnel decisions against second guessing by their school boards.


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