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The School Board’s “Palace Guard” Says NO to “Royal” Access

HERNANDO – The relationship between Journalists and Public Information Officers (PIO’s) has always been circuitous, and is sometimes typified like a game Battleship®, where one opponent tries to guess where to place the next peg – or in our case – how to properly phrase the next question.

In a recent Media Access Study, 97% of reporters say they’ve had at to make multiple requests to PIO’s, to gain information or interviews, 78% say they’ve experienced roadblocks, in gathering information, and 78% say they’ve been prohibited from accessing government agency employees for interview, altogether.

On the flipside, in a study performed by the National Association of Government Communicators (NAGC), 50% of PIO’s who participated in the study say “Controlling media coverage of the agency is a very important part of protecting the agency’s reputation.” That same percentage “felt justified in refusing to allow reporters to conduct an interview if they felt it could compromise agency security or reveal damaging information.” And finally, about 65% of PIO’s felt they needed to sit in on interviews with their clients.

RNRF is no stranger to the difficulties of acquiring information, but we’ve built a pretty good rapport with the Sheriff’s Office, Brooksville Police Department, and other local government agencies; however, there is one agency that clearly has no desire to work amicably with the media, or at least not with RNRF.

RNRF viewers know that we are not shy in reporting the news, even when the reports are not “politically correct.” We don’t answer to major corporate sponsors who often orchestrate the whims of larger media’s reporting.

When it comes to reporting news on local schools, we strive to keep parents, students, and faculty informed on developing situations, especially those that involve violence. Sometimes this “fast reporting” infuriates school administrators, because they feel it “disrupts operations.” Parents and students say otherwise, and most feel that we provide a service to the community, by keeping them informed of potentially dangerous situations.

A perfect example occurred late last year, when we reported a possible “Credible Threat” at Weeki Wachee High School (Original Report). In that report, we stated “Parents say when the call the non-emergency line at the Sheriff’s Office they are told that a “credible threat…” Even though we never claimed that school officials made that statement directly to us – they were furious.

Then, PIO, Eric Williams, now Deputy Superintendent, responded to our request for additional information regarding the incident, by stating “Please call our PIO Karen Jordan at 352-797-7009, so that you can report more accurately than the story you published late last night. Our attorneys will be in touch with you about your report’s substantial inaccuracies and the subsequent material disruption to our schools in the coming days.” Of course, we were astonished at the unprofessional attitude displayed by Mr. Williams, but even more dumbfounded to find out that he was promoted to Deputy Superintendent – a new position created by the school district just for Mr. Williams.

After a recent rash of violent incidents inside schools and aboard buses, RNRF received dozens of complaints from parents and teachers, asking us to investigate the issues.

During a recent incident aboard a county school bus, several students were attacked by a child who allegedly suffers from several emotional and behavioral disorders. The student was removed from the school bus, but remained in a classroom with other vulnerable students. Another violent incident occurred recently at Chocachatti Elementary, supposedly involving the same student. When we asked the new HCSB’s Public Information Officer, Karen Jordan, for comment, she stated “Following an outburst at school this afternoon, the 5th grade student from Chocachatti has been disciplined in accordance with the district Student’s Code of Conduct.” We asked if she would confirm if it was the same student, but she replied, “Per Federal Law: The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99) is a Federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. The law applies to all schools that receive funds under an applicable program of the U.S. department of Education.” For the record, we never asked for the student’s name, we just asked if it was the same student.

Another frustrating melee occurred over the last few days, when we asked Jordan for information regarding the ½ Cent Sales Tax, Citizen Oversight Committee. The following is that email correspondence with Jordan…

Tom Lemons – Thank you. And the second part of the question was, who were chosen to be on the oversight committee and how were they chosen?

Karen Jordan – All of the citizens who applied to participate on the committee were accepted. There was no “picking.”

Tom Lemons – So, if they were accepted, how were they chosen? Did the district publically announce that applications were being accepted for the committee?

Karen Jordan – I see. Yes, the position was publicly advertised.

As you can see – Jordan still tiptoes around the questions and only provides partial answers.

Tom Lemons – Okay, we’re one step closer. Who made the final decision on the candidates? How many applied for the committee and if I were to request the names of those who applied, would that be public record?

We received no further correspondence regarding our questions; however, she did forward the list of people who sit on the Oversight Committee. We have begun the process of interviewing each member for a future article.

A few weeks ago, RNRF was asked to contact Dr. Romano’s assistant to schedule an interview, but when we called back to make that request, we were “headed off at the pass” by Karen Jordon. In an email reply to our request, Jordan said “As the Public Information Officer for Hernando County Schools, I act as the representative between the media and the school district. Unfortunately, a meeting with the superintendent is not possible at this time.” Several calls and another email request, regarding a meeting went unanswered, so, RNRF attended last night’s School Board Meeting, in an attempt to ask Jordan in person. As cordial as the conversation went, Jordan still made no promise to schedule a meeting with the Superintendent. In comparison, Sheriff Al Nienuis, and Chief George Turner, of their respective agencies, return calls and reply to emails, whenever information that can only be answered by them is required. We’ve also had no issue with contacting individual School Board Members for comment.

So as it stands, RNRF, as an agent of the community, has hit a brick wall with providing information to our viewers. The School Board’s “Palace Guard” has spoken and a chance to kiss the Monarch’s ring has been denied. The next “Here Ye Here Ye” will probably come in the form of a promotion request, as it did when they knocked down our doors to promote the ½ cent sales tax. And that is not to say that we didn’t support the tax – we never openly provided an opinion either way.

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  • Yes Barbara I know that, someone had brought up senate, and that got me going with another subject near and dear to my heart lol. The county commission has members even more crooked than anyone in the school board. Like I’ve said before the school board has it’s own agenda, one that caters to it’s own clique. They operate on a “it’s who you know” basis, with a complete disregard for our children and their education. I’ve experienced this first hand many times, working for the School system.

    Friday, 11 March 2016, 2:25 am
  • Tom, I wasn’t speaking to you about the tax thing. I was speaking to the dingbats that instalntly seem to go to that when they don’t like something. Also, people who talk on and on about how much tax they pay etc… give me a break.

    I see in this article you are still referencing something from way back when the williams guy got pissed at you. I also see you krep pushing for more info on a kid? I ALSO see that you don’t seem to make any effort to report on anything good going on in any school around here. The tone of your “reporting” (I use quotes because this is not a news piece, it is an editorial in my opinion) is very obvious when it come to the schools.

    Do they really act this standoffish to all media or just you?

    Thursday, 10 March 2016, 9:17 pm
  • The haters are out strong on this one. It doesn’t sound like rnrf was denied a legitimate public information request. It sounds like he was denied an interview. It also sounds like he holds quite the grudge and is very anti-schools.

    I voted for the half cent. I also understand that it is for capital improvements, not salaries! It also has not even started yet so no, you cannot have your measly 1/2 cent back. Property taxes here are so low it is almost embarrassing. I get it though, everyone loves to hate on people paid by the tax payer. Except the military of course.

    Thursday, 10 March 2016, 6:10 pm
  • Why do school board members get paid, and benefits, anyway? They all have their full time jobs. Do they put in at least 40 hours a week on school board business??? They should work for free, like they did in NJ. It should be an honor to be a member of the board. It is not a full time job. Stop paying them, and you will get members who will be there for the kids, and not for themselves. Why should more than half my taxes go to the schools, anyway? We have never, ever had any kids in any of the schools. Tax the people who load up the schools, not the seniors.

    Thursday, 10 March 2016, 4:39 pm
  • Tom your right they can not hold any info public schools are not exempt it is illegal federal and state laws says,so everyone start showing up at meetings amd get rid of the knuckle heads…Get um Tom

    Thursday, 10 March 2016, 12:17 pm
  • Back in early 2000 when they first started with all these portable classrooms I had the unfortunate opportunity to deal with this school board. Although some or most of the faces have changed , the Bu// sh/* back room politics and scandalous spending has not. I am so glad I don’t have to deal with the Hernando County School Board anymore. I can guarantee there are at least 100 other private contractors out there that feel the same way.
    I will be looking forward to the oversight committee explanation of where the 1/2 penny tax is going.
    Tom, would it be possible for you to publish the dates and times of the school board meetings on your website??

    Thursday, 10 March 2016, 10:20 am
  • i went to high school with foreman, i’m surprised he’s not helping the morality of the school board better.

    Thursday, 10 March 2016, 8:38 am
    • While I often have a difference of opinion with Matt, he isn’t afraid to talk to me. My biggest problem has been Beth. She has this autoresponse on her email that she borrowed from Romano. She thinks it excuses her from being responsible to the tax payers. Well, we all need to quit shopping at Domino’s pizza.

      Thursday, 10 March 2016, 10:51 am
  • I can’t wait to put my hat in the county commissioner’s race. I’m over the dirty politics and inaction.

    Thursday, 10 March 2016, 7:25 am
    • You do understand that the county commissioners have no jurisdiction over the school board?

      Thursday, 10 March 2016, 4:13 pm
  • Public money is used to support. Total access is required. That simple folks. No grey area.

    Thursday, 10 March 2016, 7:13 am
  • PIO ? What the hell?This is a school district not the White House.Half cent tax,wasted on this kind of gal and her(staff)? Could someone please “teach”Eric how to stand a little closer to his razor.I guess he’s a rock star now with his “Holllywood)”stubble.Disgusting…Tom,please post his salary.He is a true punk

    Thursday, 10 March 2016, 7:10 am
  • Mr. Tom lemmons…..where do your kids go to school??? Let me guess….ces????

    Thursday, 10 March 2016, 6:34 am
  • The problems as outlined fall squarely on the voters for allowing this behavior to continue. We the voters need to get off our *** and vote professionals into county government or continue with Nicholas, Russell and all the rest, our leader still in office after being caught with a hooker and driving her around to pick up drugs, oh my God, was this swept under the carpet. Hernando County has the worst school administration than any other my children have attended. Only the voters can get a handle on this mess sooooo just do it at the polls.

    Thursday, 10 March 2016, 5:05 am
  • Hernando County it’s deep!! Quality teachers being fired, forced to resign because of the good old boy network. Using favors as a way of employment. What do those favors provide? Lack luster teachers who can’t keep classrooms and programs afloat, resulting in poor education for our children. This place is a sad state of affairs, this system is so crooked, if you knew the truth you would never bring your kids. You thought state government is bad? This is way worse, there’s no wonder why we have so many poorly performing schools.

    Thursday, 10 March 2016, 2:40 am
  • Well where is the money going that is supposed to be for the children with special needs that need IEP but the schools insist they dont have the funding. Which means the children with needs of special education are being failed and passed on and learning nothing but more frustration and feeling their education doesnt matter as they fall through the cracks. On top of that these teachers are not teaching anymore. Kids with grades of A’s & B’s are failing bc the teachers admit to they are just doing what they are told. So our children all around are failing. This is the worse county Ive ever been in when it comes to education. Before moving here my oldest kids had amazing grades. But regardless of which county when it comes to special education the schools social services and administration have told me personally. As I have pushed for my child’s education that needs special education as he is disabled with many disabilities. That there just isnt funding. This year I was told the funding was cut so it will be even harder.
    So to the kids that are being denied a deserving education you say what? Seeing the school board does not help with this very situation. That topic is kept a secret. Its our children’s right to a good education. Where is the money going??

    Thursday, 10 March 2016, 1:34 am
  • They just need your tax money. They don’t have to provide anything for it, information, education, or even normal responsibility.

    Thursday, 10 March 2016, 12:17 am
  • Due to the overcrowding in our schools and excessive testing we have removed our 2 elementary aged girls from Hernando schools.

    Wednesday, 9 March 2016, 11:51 pm
  • You clearly have it out for school board with a response like that. Wrong again. I don’t work for the school board. I read and research to stay informed of true facts. Yours truly, Hernando County Tax Payer and Supporter of Education in Hernando County.

    Wednesday, 9 March 2016, 10:54 pm
  • 1/2 cent committee was posted on district website with criteria and application and guidelines. Minors are protected. Why do you need an interview to waste the time of these public servants and tax money when you have been given answers. Sometimes there is no story….and sometimes your sources don’t know what they are talking about.

    Wednesday, 9 March 2016, 10:36 pm
  • In my busy world I have been remiss in not paying attention to where well over 1/2 of my big Hernando County tax bill and now an additional 1/2 cent sales tax is allocated for. I would especially be interested in the salaries being received by Ms. Jordan & Mr. Williams. If they are receiving any more than a Walmart greeter they are milking me a taxpayer in this county.
    When does this what appears to be elitist group of politicians meet?
    We the people have to get fired up and tell these hacKs, ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!

    Wednesday, 9 March 2016, 10:13 pm
  • Sorry, Ms.Jordan & Mr. Williams you are nothing more than political HACKS who think you are the political elite and untouchable.
    Need you forget that Tom Lemons along with all of us other Hernando County taxpayers pay your salary.
    Therfore, everything that is going with the taxpayer paid for school district should be open public information.
    Tom, time to get a lawyer pro-bona to finally get these people to be honest and open with us dummies who pay every cent of their big inflated salaries.

    Wednesday, 9 March 2016, 10:04 pm
    • Tom – A Citrus County local news blogger has used the First Amendment Foundation for legal assistance in gaining public records access:

      Thursday, 10 March 2016, 7:36 am
  • I like the new editor on the reply nice!

    Wednesday, 9 March 2016, 9:44 pm
  • Yes there all hiding things … Aren’t we all?
    some things are left alone ?

    Wednesday, 9 March 2016, 9:37 pm
  • guess my “I” button has problems LOL!

    Wednesday, 9 March 2016, 9:20 pm
  • Well if they will not let you interview or respond to simple Q&A’s , I want the 1/2 cent back ASAP.

    Wednesday, 9 March 2016, 9:18 pm
  • Breaking news!!! A fight between 2 2nd graders at westside!!! Oh wait only chocaccati behavior issues get published!!! Rnrf is a blog take it for what it is worth

    Wednesday, 9 March 2016, 8:22 pm
  • Karen Jordon – What are you afraid of? What are you HIDING from the public?

    Tom Lemons – Keep up the great work, as they must be trying to HIDE SOMETHING!

    Wednesday, 9 March 2016, 8:04 pm
  • We had three boys go through the county school system. Every incident we knew about or were a part of was handled poorly. They always tried to sweep things under the carpet. They never seemed to want to deal with any problems that arose. Powell Middle School was the worst.

    Wednesday, 9 March 2016, 7:55 pm
  • From an inside perspective, this is just the icing on the cake. The school board is the most crooked entity we have, the public is truly clueless as to what goes on.

    Wednesday, 9 March 2016, 7:48 pm
  • Just keep doing what you do, we appreciate it!

    Wednesday, 9 March 2016, 7:20 pm
  • Well, it looks like it’s time to clean house as we should do with the US House and Senate.. The next “group” of public servants will be more apt to work together than fight.

    Wednesday, 9 March 2016, 6:31 pm

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