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Hillsborough superintendent did not inform board of brother’s connection to company awarded contract

8 On Your Side

School Board members are silent

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – The honeymoon between the Hillsborough School Board and the new superintendent it just hired was in full bloom in June.

Superintendent Addison Davis proposed spending almost $3.7 million a year for the next 3 years on a curriculum for reading called “Achieve 3000” that he used in Clay and Duval counties.

Hillsborough County was also using it in some schools.

Hillsborough Schools Superintendent Addison Davis

“It’s going to really help us determine how to get an indication of our learners, where they are from a literacy perspective, and how well they are progressing throughout the year,” Davis told school board members.

No one asked any questions. The motion to spend the money passed unanimously.

If school board members did their homework, they would have discovered that Superintendent Davis’ brother is a senior vice president for Achieve 3000.

“I think there needs to be transparency and it’s not just on the superintendent’s responsibility but it’s also on the board,” said school district whistleblower Bianca Goolsby.

The school district’s Conflict of Interest policy states:

“Any employee who is knowingly in a capacity to influence approve or cause the purchase of any item to the board that can render him/her or an immediate relative personal gain must immediately disclose that fact.”

8 On Your Side reached out to Superintendent Davis.

Claiming he didn’t have time for an interview the school district issued the following statement:

Achieve 3000 will provide our learners with rich, high quality, complex text every single day. Prior to Superintendent Davis’ arrival in Hillsborough County, Achieve 3000 had already been used successfully in several Hillsborough County schools. This expands an existing, successful program districtwide. Superintendent Davis’ brother began working for Achieve 3000 ten months ago. Well before that, the program was utilized in Clay County and Duval County where Superintendent Davis worked. He wanted to bring the same successes he saw with literacy gains here to Hillsborough County. His brother does not benefit financially or in any other way from new sales or revenue of Achieve 3000. He did not and will not have any responsibility or involvement with the recent contract with our district. Superintendent Davis consulted with our attorney who advised him the agenda item was appropriately recommended and approved by the Board.

Hillsborough County School District

The attorney, Jeffrey Gibson wrote, “After analyzing the factual information and the relevant law, no violation of the ethics law occurred, and I have concluded that no disclosure or action was required.”

The letter was dated July 6, well after Davis presented the item to the school board.

According to Bianca Goolsby, the school district told her a different story.

“My understanding, he did not know his brother worked there at the time,” Goolsby said she was told.

That’s quite different than the statement issued by the school district.

We reached out to every school board member, multiple times, seeking a comment about whether they thought Davis should have disclosed that his brother worked for Achieve 3000.

Not a peep from chairperson Melissa Snively or vice chair Steve Cona. Not a word from Stacy Hahn, Karen Perez, Cindy Stuart or Tamara Shamburger.

Lynn Gray responded by email, stating she did not know that Davis’ brother worked for Achieve 3000 when she voted in favor of the contract. After speaking with Superintendent Davis, Gray told 8 On Your Side that she didn’t want to discuss the matter any further.

Her opponent for the District 7 seat, Sally Harris, is more than willing to talk about it.

“I do have a problem with that,” Harris explained. “I think that transparency is important with any board, especially a board and a superintendent. The board does the hiring, there has to always be that level of trust.”

School board candidate Mitch Thrower says this doesn’t pass the smell test.

District 3 candidate Mitch Thrower also has an issue with the way the contract went down,.

“This may not be a violation of law, in my opinion, it certainly doesn’t pass the smell test,” Thrower said. “I believe honoring the public trust is just as important as adhering to legal documents and if I’m elected to the school board, I will advocate for a comprehensive full disclosure policy.”

If you know of something that you think should be investigated, call our 8 On Your Side Helpline at 1-800-338-0808. Contact Steve Andrews at sandrews@wfla.com.

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