Hanna yields to ACE, Pace parents request for details on proposed move
By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer
At the behest of some worried parents who made an emotional appeal not to relocate their children, Leon County Superintendent of Schools Rocky Hanna decided to delay a final decision on moving two programs.
Hanna reluctantly made his decision not to proceed with relocating ACE and Pace schools. He appeared unwilling to do so until school board member Dee Dee Rasmussen joined the parents in calling on him to present more details on the cost of the move and what potential logistical issues might arise for the students.
Hanna set off a dust up with parents, especially those who attend the ACE program for children with disabilities, when he announced a month ago that the move will be made. However, during a school board meeting last week, a long line of parents let their dissatisfaction known.
In part, Hannah wants to move Pace, a school for at-risk students, because of the condition of the portable classrooms. His plan is to move Pace students to the ACE location on Trojan Trail and ACE students will relocate to classes at Lively on the campus of Tallahassee Community College.
Hanna said he would provide the information that parents want when the board meets April 11.
“If you all want to take charge and vote and try to overcome this; have at it,” Hanna said.
Parents read from state statues that spell out procedures for making such a change as Hanna intends to complete. They also questioned how much involvement the board has in the decision.
“I stand on the documents that we presented,” Hanna said. “We have talked this through. We’ve talked over and over again. This is not an easy decision.
“We can disagree; that’s fine. That’s your prerogative. If you want to engage about state statues and law, here is your turn. Speak to him (LCS attorney Jeff Wahlin, who was at the meeting).”
While Hanna and the board members were addressing the audience, parents sobbed. Williams Busby couldn’t hold back his tears, standing at the podium with his son Chris also weeping at his side.
“You made a determination that they were going to move,” Busby said. “I suspect that the determination for ACE was already there. I can’t prove it, but it seems like everything has gone under the board.
“There has been so much secrecy in this. It would have been so much better if you had come out and told the people.”
Michael McBride was downright angry when his turn came to plea for the students to stay put.
“A smoke screen permeates this effort,” he said.
Not only did Rasmussen question how the move was being worked out, but she showed obvious empathy for the students and their families.
“Every time I hear from this community (and) these families, I have more and more questions,” she said.
Rasmussen requested a complete financial analysis, saying that what was presented to her earlier was so shallow that it could have been done by an intern in 10 minutes.
“In order to feel good about this,” she said. “I feel like I need that information.”
A few times during the meeting, Joy Bowen who chairs the board, had to ask the audience not to interrupt statements being made by members of the board. She too was empathetic to the parents’ demands.
“It doesn’t feel good to make the kinds of decisions that we have signed on to make,” she said, adding a clarification for them.
“We are not eliminating a school, we are moving programs and that doesn’t fit well with a lot of us,” Bowen said. “I don’t know if we’ll be able, when we make a decision, to make everybody happy. I really don’t think we will.”