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School District blames City for playground issue


Mayor Ashton Hayward tried to work with School Superintendent Malcolm Thomas on the closed schools inside the city limits. They met over six months ago and nothing has been heard from Thomas on the mayor’s proposal. Last week, Councilman Brian Spencer addressed the Escambia County School Board at their regular meeting on the issue and got no response from them.

Recently a Pensacola resident tried to get the school district to allow the playground at the closed Alle Yniestra Elementary School to be made available for neighborhood children. According to an email received by the IN, Deputy Superintendent Norm Ross blamed the lack of access on a “divide between the Mayor’s Office and City Council.”

While the mayor and city council (or at least three members) often disagree, there has been no disagreement on the playground at Allie Yniestra or on any of the closed schools. Unless one of the council members has been privately trying to negotiate with Ross and Thomas, there is no such divide on this issue.

Regardless of any debates between council and mayor, the mayor, like the school superintendent, is the chief executive officer of his governmental body. Thomas and Ross need to be talking with Mayor Hayward if they are sincere in opening the school grounds for neighborhood children. A meeting with the mayor is not clandestine, anymore than a meeting with Ross or Thomas.

They haven’t spoken with the mayor’s office on this issue. What games are they playing now?

Here is the email:

From: Mike Kilmer
Sent: Friday, February 24, 2012 1:40 PM
To: Ashton Hayward
Cc: nross@escambia.k12.fl.us; Ronald Townsend; P.C. Wu; Sherri Myers; Maren Deweese; Larry B. Johnson; John Jerralds; Brian Spencer; Megan Pratt; Sam Hall
Subject: Playground in Brownsville / School Board and City Co-operation

Hello Mayor Hayward,

My name’s Mike Kilmer and my wife and I bought a house on West Jackson street and have been living here for about five years, now with a 2 1/2 year old daughter and another child due in June. Aside from the lack of sidewalks and safe bike routes we’re very happy here.

I’m writing because there isn’t a playground in the neighborhood (which leaves us without any likely place for local families to become acquainted with one another, as well as requiring either a drive long walk to play in one). As I’m sure you are aware, the Allie Yniestra Elementary School and playground are not currently in use, and I have been in contact with the City Council to see about getting the playground opened up for use here in the neighborhood.

Earlier this week I spoke with Norm Ross, who told me that they would love to work with the City on making the best use of these resources, but he feels there is a divide between the Mayor’s Office and City Council and he would want to work with both parties. I believe he specified that he is not interested in “clandestine meetings” – As I do, he wants transparency in the process.

Given the inherent competition between City and County, it makes sense that the Board of Ed would want to facilitate any co-operative use of their resources (many of which I understand are currently on the market). I have suggested to the Council that potentially a committee could be formed which would allow the City to communicate with the Board of Education about how their resources might be most useful to the City, as well as learning what the City can offer toward the Board of Ed’s efforts to educate the county’s young people.

I’ve CC’d Norm Ross as well as the City Council member’s on this email, and I hope my input can be of some use. I would be happy to meet with you at some point.

Sincerely,
Michael Kilmer