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SRQ Daily Dec 22, 2018

Saturday Perspectives Edition

Saturday Perspectives Edition

"SCF graduates record a higher grade-point average at our state universities than many of the students who began as freshmen there."

- Carol Probstfeld, State College of Florida

[Under The Hood]  Clerk Independence About More Than One Official
Jacob Ogles, jacob.ogles@srqme.com

It’s never pretty when a city charter official comes under fire. I’ve worked from the outside with Sarasota City Auditor and Clerk Pamela Nadalini since she worked under predecessor Billy Robinson. That makese it hard to watch her support. But there’s two ways to look at the current debate about what happens now.

The first and most appropriate way will be to judge Nadalini on her strengths and weaknesses, and swallow some basic truths about working as an at-will employee. But there’s also a movement afoot to call into question government safeguards at City Hall. To decide disappointments about an individual’s management style warrant an overhaul city government would be gross overreach and disregard of recent democratic directives from the people.

But first, Nadalini Like many reporters in town, my interactions with the clerk almost universally remained positive, but I’d be lying if I said complaints about her management style sounded new. There’s been high turnover and internal dissention since Nadalini’s hire, and it’s grown more vocal through the years. Many employees consider Nadalini vindictive and imperial, with 54 current and former subordinates sharing their stories to investigators from Shumaker, Loop and Kendrick. Is that enough reason to fire a charter official? It is if three commissioners believe it to be. We’ll see soon, but the outcome seems grim for the clerk.

Regardless, the investigation into Nadalini’s leadership went out of bounds when attorneys recommended city commissioners hire a consultant to look at restructuring City Hall and eliminate the separation between the city clerk’s and manager’s offices, something that would requiring amending the charter.

Attorneys with the firm declined to further discuss recommendations pending the Jan. 7 meeting when Nadalini’s future will be decided. Fine. But that the firm would so cavalierly suggest a change in government structure when Sarasota voters recently and resoundingly defeated such a maneuver shows wrong-headedness and undercuts the credibility of the investigation.

It’s little different those in Sarasota who whenever a city manager comes under fire suggests it’s time for a strong mayor. At the least, this conflates a personnel decision with a separate policy debate to be had independently. At worst, it raises suspicion why people really a problem with a charter official in the first place.

In this case, it’s the strong-manager side exploiting a headline. Many who for years saw merits in an independent city clerk while Robinson filled the office suddenly wonder if Sarasota would be better off with a robust public access arm at City Hall relegated to a messaging department. All those involved must look past personalities holding office now and consider the high stakes of leaving access to public records and internal communications to administration.

As a reporter, I’ve been acutely aware since I started covering Sarasota what benefits exist with the current structure. In municipalities where the clerk does the bidding of a manager, requests for emails, personnel files and other sources of information that might expose incompetence or corruption must pass through a gatekeeper whose livelihood depends not on staying in the good graces of an administrator facing embarrassment or worse. This leads to delays, retractions and ugly court battles, often to get to the same end result.

That paints a dire situation, and I’m not suggesting anyone in administration hungers to play dirty with records. But there’s moments big and small when the public benefits from public access operating without thought to public relations. Managers want to manage, and that includes messaging.

Moreover, Sarasota already had this argument six years ago. A citizen petition in 2012 sought to make the clerk answer to the manager; it failed by more than 10 percent. Indeed, the nearly 12,000 voters rejecting the measure represents nearly double the number of votes any city commission candidate ever received in Sarasota.

City Commissioners will to decide Nadalini’s fate soon. But voters already rejected the poor idea of eliminating the clerk’s independence. 

[Higher Education]  Guided Pathways Create Student Success
Carol Probstfeld, presidentsoffice@scf.edu

Winter commencement at State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota begins a significant transition in the lives of our graduates. As 310 of our 1,175 graduates walked across the stage of the Bradenton Area Convention Center Dec. 13, they began the next phase of their lives.

Some will enter the workforce in a professional field, but most come to SCF to begin their educational journey—they will earn their Associate in Arts degree at SCF and transfer to one of Florida’s state universities or another institution in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree. At the college, our mission is to prepare them to be successful in that next step.

Our A.A. transfer students are with us for their first two years. We teach them to be college students and lay the foundation that will lead them to success at the next level. We take pride in our ability to prepare students for their second two years and take our role very seriously. Florida’s state colleges provide more than half the juniors and seniors at state university system schools. SCF graduates record a higher grade-point average at our state universities than many of the students who began as freshmen there.

Florida’s 2+2 articulation system has a lot to do with this. Our A.A. graduates are guaranteed entry to a state university with two years of credits. Adding guided pathways to this equation makes student success even more likely. SCF has agreements with several state universities to provide a guided pathway for a student to earn a bachelor’s degree in their chosen field of study that encompasses their time at both institutions. This creates a seamless transition from college to university with guaranteed admissions and without excess credits. It is logical, timely and economical for our students.

Research from the Community College Research Center shows that guided pathways improve student retention and shorten the time to degree completion. These pathways give students a course by course roadmap to reach their goal. At SCF, these pathways are used by students in our workforce degree programs and those on the A.A. completion and transfer path. Partnering with their transfer university from the start of their higher education increases the likelihood of earning a bachelor’s degree.

SCF has an institutional commitment to providing the right opportunity for every student to study what they want where they want. The college joined the FUSE program with the University of South Florida and the University of Florida’s Gator Engineering at SCF last year. This year, we have entered into agreements with the Florida A&M University Ignite program and New College. Through each of these agreements, students who meet the prerequisites can gain acceptance to both institutions, receive clearly outlined curriculum requirements and receive support and services from both SCF and the university. In some cases, students can gain access to on-campus university events while still attending SCF.

We plan to establish a University Partnership Center to allow representatives from our university partners to provide advising services and transfer information to our students and are discussing partnerships with more Florida four-year institutions. Guided pathways with our university partners remove the mystery and uncertainty from a student’s pursuit of higher education. We want to give students as many face-to-face opportunities to get their questions answered as possible.

Students come to SCF to complete the first two years of their college education in an affordable, impactful manner. The pride we take in seeing them accomplish their goals does not end with graduation from our institution. They may walk away from SCF after crossing the stage, but we know that their time with us has prepared them for the next step in their educational journey.

Dr. Carol Probstfeld is president of State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota. 

Screencap: SCF President Carol Probstfeld congratulates graduates after they receive degrees.

[TODAY]  Celebrate the Holidays with Selby Gardens

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens lights up the holiday season with Lights In Bloom. Over one million lights will illuminate the garden and walkways will be transformed into sensory light tunnels. Visitors will have the opportunity to stroll through magical gardens filled with beautifully lit flowers, radiant rainforest butterflies, dragonflies and more. The tropical holiday paradise includes nightly visits from Santa and his elves (before Christmas Eve), children’s arts and crafts activities and games, plus live entertainment from SoulRCoaster and The Hydramatic. Grilled foods will be available for purchase from the Michael’s on East grill including a cash bar. The Selby House Cafe will also be open with its full menu. In its 15th year, Lights In Bloom has become a tradition for residents and visitors to celebrate the holiday season in Sarasota. 

[SCOOP]  Big Cats on the Gulf Coast

Did you know…Big Cat Habitat and Gulf Coast Sanctuary is an ever-growing large-animal rescue in eastern Sarasota County. Founded in 1987 by Kay Rosaire, the non-profit sanctuary is a permanent home for dozens of exotic animals, offers placement for animals in need, and works to educate the public about animal care and conservation.

Kay began rescuing big cats in 1987. Big Cat Habitat became a non-profit in 2005 and became a full sanctuary with the goal of rescuing exotic cats and other native and exotic wildlife in need of a permanent home. Big Cat Habitat provides education to the public to foster appreciation of the animals and impart the importance of habitat preservation.

There are 3 large indoor/outdoor housing complexes with adjoining exercise habitats, and we are continuing to expand. Each habitat has a swimming pool, toys and palm trees to provide the emotional enrichment that maintains optimal mental and physical health. 

[SCOOP]  Improv Troupe Returns to Sarasota for Special Residency

Florida Studio Theatre (FST) is proud to announce that The Available Cupholders, Austin’s top improv troupe and a Sarasota Improv Festival fan favorite, will return to Sarasota the first weekend of January 2019 for a special residency. During their time at FST, the group will perform two improv comedy shows and lead three workshops. Limited availability performances will take place two-nights only: Friday, January 4 and Saturday, January 5 at 7:30PM in FST’s Bowne’s Lab Theatre. Tickets are just $15-18 and can be purchased at floridastudiotheatre.org or (941) 366-9000. Improv workshops will be held January 3 and 5, and enrollment is just $35. Those interested in discovering their own creative spontaneity can register online at floridastudiotheatre.org, or by calling Pamela Smith, Education Administrator, at (941) 366-1350. 

[SOON]  Foundation Offering Nonprofit Workshops on Grant Writing, Human Resources

Registration is now open for two upcoming workshops for nonprofit organizations presented through Gulf Coast Community Foundation’s Invest in Incredible initiative. A January 10 workshop will cover human resources compliance and best practices for small organizations, while a January 18 workshop focuses on grant-writing strategies. Each morning-long workshop costs $25, which includes breakfast, and will take place at Gulf Coast Community Foundation’s headquarters in Venice.

Invest in Incredible is Gulf Coast Community Foundation’s nonprofit capacity-building initiative. Through free online resources, group training workshops, and customized consulting engagements, Invest in Incredible helps nonprofit organizations across the Gulf Coast region improve their board governance and operational effectiveness.

Registration and more information is available online at GulfCoastCF.org/our-events.
[SCOOP]  Goodwill Executives Earn MBAs

Two Goodwill Manasota vice presidents recently earned their Master of Business Administration (MBA) degrees. Donn Githens, vice president of operations, earned his Master of Business Administration from Ashford University. Githens, who has worked for Goodwill since June 2006, is responsible for the oversight of Goodwill's efforts in retail sales, attended donation centers, salvage, real estate, property management, facilities maintenance, purchasing, and mission development. He also oversees the White Glove Service, which helps to empty the homes of people who are buying/selling a home or in a transitional stage of life, and supervises the vendor responsible for handling transportation for the nonprofit. Gray Videnka, vice president of the foundation & marketing, recently earned her Master of Business Administration from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management Executive MBA program. Videnka, who has worked for Goodwill Manasota since October 2011, has provided oversight in information services (IT), project management and finance. She was recently promoted to lead the foundation and marketing efforts for Goodwill Manasota. Videnka also serves on the executive board at the Women’s Resource Center. 

SRQ Media Group

SRQ DAILY is produced by SRQ | The Magazine and edited by Senior Editor Phil LedererNote: The views and opinions expressed in the Saturday Perspectives Edition and in the Letters department of SRQ DAILY are those of the author(s) and do not imply endorsement by SRQ Media. Senior Editor Jacob Ogles edits the Saturday Perspective Edition, Letters and Guest Contributor columns. For rates on SRQ DAILY banner advertising and sponsored content opportunities, please contact Ashley Ryan Cannon at 941-365-7702 x211 or via email

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