Illiteracy at the Hillsborough County School Board
Dear La Letitia Steins, Reporter St. Pete Times:
I saw you at your post in the back of the Plant cafeteria scribbling down on your reporter pad all the at-the-mike lucubrations of South Tampa parents who turned up to expatiate to Le Elia on her Grand Provincial Tour. Elia’s dwarfs were as thick as hops.
Poor Dr. Otero scampered around, following up Elia’s imperial motions to him to follow up on some parental plaint at the mike. Public Relations Steve Hegarty looked wan. He’s been staying up nights plumbing his grammar primer since my blitzkrieg attack on his literacy.
Late as usual, Dr. James Hamilton lumbered in. Or maybe the creature was Frankenstein: there were suspicious electrical burn marks around his hairline from lightening hook ups. What remains a mystery is how this primitive specimen, ignorant of the difference between “you’re” and “your,” acted Romeo to an ambitions kindergarten K12 Mata Hari.
That all the dwarves are men and that the head dwarf is a woman tickled my feminist heart. It’s too bad the first woman superintendent is not smart or beautiful or witty. But neither were white male superintendents.
If men get to be obtuse, homely, and verbally flatfooted, those privileges should extend to women. Ms. Elia represents an egalitarian advance because she possesses all those attributes the x-chromosome flavor when she stood before the microphone, addressing parents despite her resume’s revealing she cheated her way into the job, flubbed real-estate crime when she headed the building department, covered up overbuilding classrooms, fudged enrollment numbers to baffle the County Commission quidnuncs into giving her more money to misuse, practiced grungy ethics including lying outright when backed into a corner.
The microphone choreograph showed that Tampa’s South Tampa soi-disant aristocrats’ sense of entitlement cows Elia into permanent obeisance.
The words “boundary change” wafted from somewhere in the feudal hall. Elia lunged to the mike to say there would be no boundary changes in South Tampa.
One guesses not.
If the School Board and La Elia tried any boundary-change flimflam on South Tampa such as it got away with the peons in Westchase, South Tampa piney-woods aristocrats would assemble a posse, erect a guillotine in gated Culbreath Bayou, and lop off administrative and Board heads, starting with Elia’s.
My favorite tableau starred a mother of four with more effrontery than grooming. South Tampa matrons think it their right to appear in public in slovenly dishabille. This quadripara captured the mike with blowsy confidence and held forth for a coon’s age about how children should not have to comply with the school list of projects to fulfill their community-service requirement by doing such things as nursing-home duty when they could engage in church activities-- Jesus approved, to be sure—instead.
Not sure that she had gotten her message across in emphatic enough fashion, this intrepid bore repeated it with embellishments, vagaries, and multiple asides.
Elia listened with rapt attention to this parental logorrhea because it came from a South Tampa denizen. The superintendent’s behavior differed markedly from that she displayed when she looked on with bored hostility when the desperate parents of the Westchase boundary uprising pleaded for their children at the gimcrack Board meeting set up to seal the outrage with the Board’s official rubberstamp.
Starchy South Tampa matron chair Carol Bricklemeyer gaveled the pleading parents to silence after two minutes. She didn’t scruple to shut a parent up mid-sob about the wrenching of a thousand of their weeping offspring from their home schools to a new one. Bricklemeyer is a South Tampa paragon who took respite from bandage-rolling at the Junior League for a spin on the School Board but is now returning to her native South Tampa society-matron trivial pursuits, thank God for the children’s sake.
When our four children went to Grady, Coleman, and Plant, the superintendent of schools was a dumb white man with inferior intellectual and academic credentials. During those days, examining the administration’s grammar and punctuation had not occurred to me. I tried to reason. Reason is not a winning tactic with the school thugs.
Such local specimens as disgrace the academic world can always find a home in the superintendent’s chair in Hillsborough County. So that the same standards apply to women is only fair. I have worked forty-five years in the Women’s Movement to see an illiterate woman replace illiterate men as superintendent of schools.
Elia is the first x-chromosome equivalent of the dumb white guy heretofore filling superintendent chair. What a triumph for women’s rights: just the sort of thing I have always striven for, to be sure.
The superintendent has lost weight too—40 pounds, she announced with elegant frankness because, she told a reporter, she had to appear on TV. She did not cite as reason that she wanted to be a role model for county students caught in the national epidemic of childhood obesity.
Gravity has done its damage, alas: the poor woman’s cheeks have descended to form another set of jowls.
I am afraid this fleshly descent calls for plastic surgery. No problem: The Board will sign off on that. A woman making a mere $262,500 with her recent raise can’t afford plastic surgery. The Board can finance the face-saving magic for La Elia from petty cash, and chump taxpayers will be none the wiser.
I think Raymond O. Shelton, for whom the ROSAC building was named—reined superintendent during my children’s k12 years of school if my memory serves right. Shelton was the apotheosis of all that is amiss in Hillsborough County superintendents: ugly as a toad and dumb as a stump. Before Dr. Lennard displaced him, Dr. Shelton was the most profoundly mediocre man in Hillsborough County.
But then-Board-member Cile Essrig thought he was the knight of k12 dering do. She got mad for my saying that but now speaks to me again because she forgot what I said.
I lobbied for Greek and Latin in the schools while Shelton’s piney-woods idea of a bump-up in education was to put all the children in uniforms. Those South Tampa kids, obsessed with designer jeans, would have rioted before they swapped their couture duds for another kind of uniform. Their parents would have backed them up by raising a ruckus at PTA and menacing downtown administrators until they ran up the white flag over ROSAC and declared unconditional surrender.
South Tampa parents treat school administration like the hired help, and the administration sucks up to power very nicely, thank you.
I recall one illustrative incident of many while my family lived in South Tampa. Lindsay Germany, a daughter of Judge Germany—the guy whose name decorates the big library downtown--didn’t make Plant’s cheerleading squad.
So both the judge and his wife descended on the Plant principal, and she (I think it was Beth Shields then, but I was never sure, not ever attending a PTA meeting because of my credo that doing so would make me dumb) expanded the cheerleading squad to include Lindsay to propitiate the judge and his consort.
How that is for parental inculcation of fair play coming from the bench with the Plant principal’s endorsing the process with eager sycophancy?
This incident mirrors what I call academic and snob realpolitik. These South Tampa offspring of distorted privilege lead the Bay Area now, so the beat goes on.
Speaking of Mrs. Germany, she once turned up at our back door demanding that one of our daughters—Margie, I think—return a pair of shoes that Lindsey had lent her. I would no more go to the house of one of my children’s friends to retrieve a pair of shoes from a child than I would strip off and walk down Kennedy naked.
But South Tampa mothers live lives of such tremendous trifles that the back-door demand for a child’s tardy shoes represents a major issue to them—that and checking out Lily Rubin’s (now defunct) to see which of them a Republican husband of the military-industrial complex has dumped for a younger model.
Having defected from Gainesville in their sophomore year to marry a South Tampa scion, these women never got enough education to do anything but clerk in Lily Rubin’s yet felt entitled to sneer at women who held jobs. I did. I taught English. They whispered slanders at Palma Ceia Country Club lunches of us working women’s neglecting our children when they showed enough maternal care to storm the principal’s offices to demand a place for their offspring on the cheerleading squad. It serves these dopey air heads right to end up on alimony.
When my time came at the mike, I had already passed out the attached handouts’ labeling Ms. Elia and Dr. Hamilton illiterate. This was a time to abandon euphemism. I had only 50 handouts; I could have used 200. But I sewed the seed of knowledge, and its spread will fester relentlessly. This is how revolutions occur: one handout at a time.
Donning my professorial persona, I lectured on how students came into my classroom from surrounding schools not able to spell, punctuate, handle grammar, or even write a sentence much less a paragraph or essay. I said they were bright but illiterate. I said I had tracked the reason for student illiteracy to administrative illiteracy and referred to Elia’s and Hamilton’s grammar-punctuation solecisms in my handout and cited page numbers for the errors from the Prentice-Hall system-chosen text book.
I summarized by asking Elia how she justified milking $262,500 from the taxpayers a year when she herself couldn’t handle the grammar-and-punctuation expertise that the county schools demanded of its graduates.
La Elia flunked the test. She said, “Thank you for coming” and turned to the next questioner.
Applause rang out for Ms. Elia’s evasion. The crowd applauded superintendent illiteracy. But I know the context of that applause.
A young father of four intensely involved in his children’s education had said at the mike that his children brought home papers with A’s on them that had major errors the teacher did not mark with a red pen. He said he couldn’t understand how his children could learn anything if the teacher didn’t mark the papers. He said he wanted those fearsome, old-school teachers who were hardliners on the knowledge his children should acquire in the classroom.
Elia talked around the question, of course.
I went up to him at meeting’s close and told him that he should tell his children’s teachers that he wanted them to spend the time grading their children’s papers and red-inking errors. That’s what good teachers do. He said he would.
Insiders of education can tell you that there has grown the practice of teachers’ not spending time to review student papers. They throw them in the waste basket or mark them with an A. Grading papers—especially student writing—is hard, time-consuming work. I spent my weekends for twenty-eight years grading freshman English essays. Students demonstrated disbelief even trauma when they got back their first set of papers in my classes. Red marks were a new experience for them.
Many of the people in the room— more than half school personnel in some administrative job--had escaped from low-paid teacher positions to higher-paid administrative ones. These were the source of applause and even sports-arena hoots for Elia’s illiteracy.
These supporters of illiteracy didn’t want to rock the boat of the practice of shortchanging students by not coming down on the grammar and punctuation errors in their papers. Doing that duty was work. In fact, I venture that more than half of these former teachers may not have learned grammar punctuation themselves and couldn’t grade errors if they had to because they didn’t know enough to do so.
They didn’t want some trouble-making former professor to re-institute literacy requirements for them and make them do the hard work of grading student papers and red-inking errors.
Parents came up to me after the meeting and said they approved of my stressing literacy. One said she had been an English major and corrected people’s pronouns all the time. They wanted their children to learn to write the English language literately. What conscientious parent wouldn’t? They all knew that literacy is the vector of civilization, and they wanted their children to be part of that civilization if for no other reason that literacy meant their children had a chance to get into Harvard or Yale or Princeton.
One woman at the mike cheered me up. She belonged to a committee that was testing a math program that presented an alternate methodology of teaching the children math. Her 6th-grade son had not known how to show the process by which he arrived at a math answer, although he had aced FCAT.
This woman had tried unsuccessfully to get a meeting with Elia several times to discuss the evaluation of a professional evaluation for the program and possible adoption. Elia had not responded. I know this routine. If the administration or Board doesn’t want to hear anything that challenges status quo, they ignore you. The people who rule the roost at ROSAC are not those with inquiring minds thirsty for knowledge.
This cracker-jack smart woman had worked for IBM for eight and half years and knew her subject cold. Elia didn’t know diddly. The woman walked all over the puzzled superintendent.
If Candy Olson, potted-planted board member for this district, concerns herself with student welfare, she will ask Elia for this woman’s name and contact her. Such parents are the kind whose parental involvement the schools need—not the non-challenging kind that the Board and administration welcome.
I walked out with a fellow who had gotten up to complain about the kindergarten travails of one of his children. He looked old enough to be a grandpa and may have been one of those South Tampa men who had turned in his old wife for a new one and produced a new passel of kindergarten consumers.
He hadn’t put up with Elia’s piffle at the mike. He spat out, “You didn’t answer my question!” and turned on his heel to stalk away in disgust.
I said to him, “I admired your emphatic exit from the mike.”
He rumbled, “She didn’t answer my question and didn’t know the answer. This is the usual runaround. I am going to stay on them, and you do too. She didn’t answer your question either.”
One of my youngest child Margie’s classmates came up to greet me before I left. She said Margie had always been fun in school. She is still fun and the mother of two children in the South Tampa schools.
I may have to join the Plant PTA as a granny-for-literacy member to make up for my defection when my children were in school. My daughter Margie, mother of one Plant student now, soon to be two, will resist this move. She was glad I didn’t attend PTA when she was at Plant. She was afraid I would rise and bring up embarrassing questions.
Embarrassing questions are what the academic-manqué thugs who run the school system now need: the first question's being why taxpayers should subsidize their illiteracy with bloated salaries that the Hillsborough County School Board rubberstamps.
Ms. Leticia, thank you for your attention. To reward it, I will advise you to read A. J. Liebling (start with The Earl of Louisiana) and H. L. Mencken, the only two newspaper writers with admirable style. And Menken was a scholar of American English.
I will close as people did during the 19th century. I have been rereading Trollope’s novels from that time. Trollope is magic. He vies with Dickens as being my favorite 19th-century novelist.
Believe me to be,
With much sincerity,
Lee Drury De Cesare
PS: This email goes to Mr. Hegarty, the spin doctor for the school rip-off cartel:
This is a public-information request.
I noted a young woman taking names at a table in the Plant cafeteria for Ms. Elia’s appearance.
I would like a list of those names and addresses. I would stress especially the names of the parents who appeared at the microphones to ask questions.
Please don’t go through your Jesuitical routine of pondering the legality of releasing those names. It was a public forum; they spoke publicly. None discussed topics that impinged on national security.
Lee Drury De Cesare
Handout Passed Out at Plant Elia Visit
Taxpayer Support of Administration Illiteracy
Our four children attended Grady, Coleman, and Plant. Two grandchildren now move through the same schools. I view the school system through knowledge I gained as a parent and teacher: twenty-eight years a professor of English at Hillsborough Community College.
Since 6th-cetury Greece, the basis of all education has been language. Illiterate academics are uneducated people no matter how many degrees they append to their names. The online diploma mills will sell anybody a degree though he be completely unable to write. All enterprises feed off a person’s ability to use language correctly and well. Language facility should thus star in k12 education as it does in education anywhere.
At HCC, Hillsborough County students entering my freshman-English classes showed scant skills in English. Some who had made A’s in high school suffered ignorance of basic grammar and punctuation. Many had difficulty writing a basic declarative sentence much less a paragraph or essay.
These deficiencies meant that I perforce taught remedial English to bring ill-prepared students to the point at which I could then lecture on Shakespeare and Yeats to assign essays.
These mostly bright students did not lack imagination. However, although they were verbally fluent, they lacked ability to write literately.
Each semester for twenty-eight years, I marveled at this situation. When I retired, I decided to track the culprits responsible for illiteracy among my entering students. I find hard crediting concern over immigrants’ not speaking English from Americans who can’t write their own language and students’ entering college with feeble grammar, punctuation, and writing ability.
The usual suspects for the illiteracy problem are administration deadwood that runs schools and Boards that rubberstamp administrative mediocrity and incompetence. Setting standards for excellence in language comes from the top. Superintendent Elia does not stress literacy because she does not model literacy herself. The Board chose her and tolerates her marginal literacy.
This situation echoes the administration’s and the Board’s not having a school-wide health-and-weight program for students. Observing a Board meeting shows that obesity represents a problem for most administration and Board members; they decline to call attention to their own failing by starting a student health program. Hence, they engage in studied indifference to the epidemic of childhood obesity that will compromise children’s health as adults.
In the same way, the Board abets students’ graduating without ability to write by making such writing-challenged mediocrities as Ms. Elia superintendent. She avoids stressing writing excellence because doing so would call attention to her own deficiency. This situation means students will not enter college or the work force with the necessary writing ability because their k12 years did not stress it.
The administrators and Board have counted on the ignorant docility of parents’ and taxpayers’ not caring that the schools they pay taxes to support graduate students without ability to write literate English when they step into a college class or into an office job. If only a few parents complained loudly and often about the problem, the situation would change because School Board members are politicians who want to be re-elected.
Ms. Elia’s own English skills are pitiful. The comma baffles her. It also defeats Elia’s in-house ghost writer, Mr. Hegarty. He’s the over-paid word-doctor manqué who’s supposed to rescue La Elia’s clumsy, ill-punctuated essays, which feature not only grammar-punctuation bloopers but which also act repositories of banal diction and plethora of pussyfooting passive verbs.
I requested examination copies of the school English textbooks from the Board and Administration. Nobody answered me. No one gave me even the courtesy of a return email with the name of the departmental English text. This lack of response represents administration and Board habitual arrogant behavior to taxpayers who underwrite schools. When Board members run for office, they solicit your input; elected, Board members won’t deign to recognize a citizen’s existence.
Getting the English textbook name from a teacher, I bought the Prentice Hall Writing and Grammar, the department choice. It’s a big, flossy, overwritten book that costs taxpayers a bundle. Better, smaller, less expensive books exist. But when tax dollars are available to squander, Boards and administrations do so with a hey nonny nonny.
I cite page numbers from Prentice Hall in the following corrections:
Ms. Elia’s citations come from the Web page for the world to see. And these far from exhaust her Web errors. They represent samples only:
This first Web error I discovered (below) I complained about three times--to Elia once, to Board Member Ethridge twice. Since Ms. Ethridge was a former English teacher, I expected her to care about illiteracy on the schools’ Web page. I was wrong. I got no response from Ethridge until I wrote about the problem of the administration’s and graduates’ illiteracy to a state business organization—the sort that complains about not getting high school workers who can write. I sent the School Board a copy.
That ploy did the trick. The Board fosters illiteracy, but its members don’t want the world to know this fact. Only then did Ms. Ethridge rustle up somebody to correct the errors online. La Elia was indifferent to her online illiteracy. Power corrupts. It corrupts punctuation especially from a superintendent who believes she is beyond correction.
- Mary Ellen is married to Albert Elia and has two children, a son [sic] Albert [sic] and a daughter [sic] Tara.
Commas should enclose “Albert” and “Tara” as nonrestrictive appositives since they are sole son and daughter according to the biography. Prentice Hall 701
- “Keep in mind, [sic] that it will take increased commitments….”
The comma following “mind” is redundant: It cuts off the adjectival clause “that…” from the word it modifies, “mind.” Prentice Hall 707
- For the first time, [sic] at the end of the school year…”
The comma is redundant: it separates two introductory prepositional phrases. The comma correctly goes after the second one, ending in “year.” Prentice Hall 707
- “…to support the students, teachers [sic] staff…”
Ms. Elia does not follow the Standard-English item-in-series comma rule. Schools teach Standard English, not some lesser standard used in the commercial world. Prentice Hall 696
- “I can’t stress enough parental involvement in their [sic] children’s education….”
Vague pronoun-reference problem: “Their” has no antecedent. It cannot refer back to “parental,” the adjective. Prentice Hall 600
- “…the School Board is doing all they [sic] can…”
Pronoun agreement: A school board is an “it,” not a “they.” Prentice Hall 601
- “While we may not be certain what the future holds or what the total impact will be [sic] we must be prepared…”
An introductory adverbial clause requires a comma after it. Prentice Hall 699
- “That includes the high-growth districts, [sic] like Hillsborough, who [sic] …”
- “Like Hillsborough” is a restrictive adjectival prepositional phrase: no commas. Prentice Hall 701
Superintendent illiteracy is a malignant tradition in Hillsborough County. For Auld Lang Syne, let’s include one of Dr. Earl the Pearl’s grammar felonies to remind us that superintendent illiteracy is a bona fide occupational qualification in this County:
- “With me this morning is [sic] Dr. Howard Sinsley, Superintendent of Pinellas County Schools, John Long, and Superintendent of Pasco County Schools….”
Dr. Lennard’s errors cost him nothing. Emerging victor from vo tech as the pre-arranged insider job shoo-in against the pre-condemned $30,000 “nation-wide” search candidates, Earl the Pearl abused grammar and punctuation to his heart’s content during his tenure. At retirement time, the Board loaded up a Dempsey dumpster of golden-parachute goodies for him. He could now be on the Riviera on taxpayer tab if only he could speak French—or even English.
Ms. Olson has sat like a potted plant for twelve years and will sit four more since she won re-election. During that tenure, she has not departed from the administration’s orders. She is supposed to be the administration’s boss, but she has allowed the administration to act her boss. She has not mentioned the superintendents’ illiteracy. Perhaps a look at Olson’s own writing in her online biography shows why she has maintained forbearance for superintendents’ abuse of commas:
- Candy Olson has served on the Hillsborough County School Board since 1994, [sic] and has chaired the board twice.
The comma splits a compound verb. Prentice Hall 707
Here follows a Dogpatch subset of grammar solecisms from Dr. James Hamilton, the putative brains behind Dr. Lennard and Ms. Elia. Dr. Hamilton acts in-house k12 macho man who beats his chest whilst helping young kindergarten teachers skip over troublesome hurdles of relevant education and experience so that one can jump from the tots to a $120,000 administration job in Tallahassee without doing any work except perhaps batting her eyelashes, simpering, and being agreeable to K12 knights errant—very errant.
Dr. Hamilton has the dubious reputation of also acting the Rasputin who guided Dr. Earl the Pearl Lennard and Ms. Elia onto Hillsborough County superintendent perch by his masterful sub rosa manipulation of the politics of insider superintendent appointment. Dr. Hamilton’s writing shows that in addition to his illiteracy Dr. Hamilton suffers from delusions that he is Dr. Kirk from the Starship Enterprise.
- [sic]Cap’in [sic] I think that you’re [sic] molecules are spread across the universe, [sic]‘cause the transporter is jammed!
Dr. Hamilton, although Super-Duper Dude, does not know quotation-marks protocol. Prentice Hall 722 “Cap’in” should be “Cap’n.” Prentice Hall has no discussion of elision of letters, so you are just going to have to take my word on this one. There should be a comma after “Cap’n” for direct address. Prentice Hall 699 Dr. Hamilton Kirk of Starship k12 Machismo does not know the difference between the homophones “your” and “you’re.” No comma goes after "universe"; it cuts off a restrictive trailing adverbial clause. Prentice Hall 819
Dr. Kirk-Hamilton must have cycled too many times on the Star Ship transporter and messed up his synapses. Or maybe the Klingons had it in for him and rearranged his dura mater, pia mater, and arachnoid mater.
- Well [sic]Scotty, I’ve got an important message to get to all of the principals and site managers, so put down that bottle, [sic] and stoke those engines and get me back in one piece so I can get it out by the end of the day!!!!!!!! [sic]
Comma follows "well": mild interjection. Prentice Hall 699 No comma after "bottle": don't separate a compound verb with a comma. Prentice Hall 707 Only very young children, comic books, and grown-ups stuck in arrested development use a plethora of exclamation points for emphasis as does Dr. Hamilton. See Romper Room protocol’s page after “Eeency, Weency Spider” or consult Mr. Green Jeans, wherever he is--in outer space or in Disney World--for confirmation of this rule.
Apocrypha says Dr. Hamilton manipulated the Board’s advertisement for the “nationwide” superintendent search before Earl the Pearl’s ascendancy to insert a heretofore unheard of vo-tech superintendent requirement because Lennard had emerged from the bowels of Hillsborough County’s Vo-tech department, not a hot bed of scholarship to be sure. Le Hamilton, legend says, also engineered lowering the Ph.D. requirement to a master’s degree in Elia’s hiring because La Elia has no Ph.D.
In my considered opinion, Dr. Earl Lennard is the most profoundly mediocre man in Hillsborough County, equal to the dim-bulb former Dr. Raymond Shelton, but the competition for the honor remains keen.
Somnolent taxpayers shelled out $30,000 and $35,000 respectively for nationwide faux ads for which the winners had already won. The Board knew it would vote for the inside candidates when its members signed off on the $65,000 hit on the taxpayer tab.
Such waste of revenue pours money down a hole of mediocrity and demonstrates lamentable lack of ethics in those who run the schools. And the children are watching. I would like to assign the Board member from this district an essay explaining her participation in this fraud.
This piece of administrative and Board effrontery shows especially egregious when there are in the County poor children who can’t participate in class activities because they lack the supplies to do so, and the Board does not supplement the meager state allotment for such supplies. Instead, it raises already bloated administrator salaries.
I once asked Dr. Hamilton at a Tiger Bay event what subject his terminal thesis explored. He said he couldn’t remember. People who have written theses remember what they concern because researching and writing theses are hard work. A shibboleth in colleges and universities says that the academic weaklings go into administration. A corollary supposition is that many people in administrations have bought-and-paid for theses. One hopes such not to be the case with Dr. Hamilton. I asked him for a copy of his thesis. He said he didn’t know where it was.
The back story says that Ms. Elia’s need for Dr. Hamilton’s input into her superintendent decisions has led to his refusing retirement while occupying the same job with Dr. Otero, his replacement. Taxpayers paid for two jobs for one for some while without a murmur from the Board. Recently, Ms. Elia’s and the Board’s created for Dr. Hamilton a featherbedding job as Bus Czar. That he will park himself at taxpayer expense in this boutique sinecure has not created outrage.
When the bus-driver crises erupted, Dr. Hamilton became the bus czar under the impressive title of School-wide Enforcer or some such male-power-fantasy rubric, perhaps Attila the Hun’s Top Gun K12 Wowser.
Instead of awarding the bus drivers a decent salary (now $10,000 poverty level), buying new buses for the ones breaking down all the time, and hiring sufficient mechanics, the Board created Hamilton a Czar-of-Buses job. In his new aerie, Dr. Hamilton immediately hired a consulting firm for $232,000. One infers these pricey consultants will tell him to pay the bus drivers a decent salary, buy buses, and hire mechanics.
Ms. Elia created and awarded Dr. Hamilton a job not advertised; and the Board rubberstamped the award of the job to Dr. Hamilton job before it formulated the job description. The new position, of course, got no advertising despite "Equal Opportunity Employer” fibs one sees festooning the Web site.
And how much money do hapless taxpayers fork out for such administrative talent as the Hillsborough County School Board foists upon it?
A quarter of million goes to Ms. Elia, recently raised by $12,500 even after Board potted plants learned she presided over the real-estate scam that cost taxpayers thousands of dollars, and she overbuilt classrooms in Westchase, which led her to reshuffle boundaries to cover up this mistake—a move that left a thousand children weeping and clinging to their mothers’ skirts in terror of leaving their familiar schools.
Steve Hegarty, who snagged his job despite not having the ad’s credentials, acts ghost writer supposed to help Ms. Elia with her writing deficiency. But Le Hegarty can’t punctuate himself yet shakes down taxpayers for $91,000 and growing.
Dr. Hamilton for whom Ms. Elia and the Board invented the Bus Tzar job out of thin air and taxpayer kitty named him to it before the job description went on record. Dr Hamilton sucks up $132,000 plus perquisites, not to mention handing out flossy consultant deals to tell him how to do his new job of bus czar.
Linda Kipley, head of Professional Standards, whom the administration inserted in the job without advertising it and who savages teachers in her Abu Gharib cell block with no outside control, gets $120,000 for playing the administration’s Lucco Brazzi to terrify teachers with losing their jobs if they protest anything.
Kipley told one teacher she could not reveal what occurred in her punishment, demolishing the teacher’s free-speech rights. Kipley also would not let this teacher attend her students’ graduation. And what had this teacher done to merit Professional Standards sadism? She had taken her students on a field trip with parental oks. For $120,000 tax payers underwrite sadistic treatment of teachers from a woman whose original credential is a home ec degree and no further academic achievements on the record.
Connie Mileto is the kindergarten degreed knock-off Mata Hariette who inveigled promotion to district lobbyist with the sponsorship of Le Dr. Hamilton. La Connie pulls down $120,000 in tax dollars. She has no degrees or training relevant to this pricey job.
Meanwhile, the bus drivers make $10,000 a year; drive buses that break down often; and don’t have enough mechanics to fix them. And the administration says it has no money to raised their salary ten percent. Elia’s raise would cover over ten of these exploited drivers.
The Number One school system in the country is that of Massachusetts. By state law, administrators must pass the same language tests as teachers. I have campaigned so far unsuccessfully to have our local legislative delegation pass such law for Florida to screen out illiterate administrators. Although, I have not been successful, there is nothing to prevent voters from demanding that local School Board members use a language-screening test to weed out administrators who don’t demonstrate literacy. There is also no reason why voters should not demand that the Board advertise high-level jobs (more than 20 administrators make over $100,000 a year) to leaven the current across-the-board mediocrity and often illiteracy of the top-heavy gang of administrative parasites.
Administration salary bloat reigns nationwide. There is never an administrator shortage, just a teacher shortage. The reason: administration is where the money is.
Beginning teachers in Hillsborough County make $32,000, often working two jobs to survive. CTA union charges $500 a year from these meager salaries for bloated union officials’ bloated pay. These union honchos won’t reveal their salaries and are in bed with the administration. I was union president at HCC, so I know union sell-out phenomenon when I see it. The pious consensus that a good teacher is a treasure does not reflect in his or her or his paycheck. The rascals in administration get the big paychecks because they shape the budges, rubberstamped by somnolent boards.
Hordes of administrators nationwide have promoted salary bloat in a cartel of locusts that gobble up tax dollars that should support the whole school family. When job shopping amongst complicit school boards, these administrative throngs cite each other’s bloated salaries as the going rate.
There is nothing, however, to prevent the Hillsborough County School Board from rebelling against this extortion and setting sensible salaries for administrators. The administrator glut means candidates will line up. And citizens should remember that in Hillsborough County, no teacher makes over $100,000 a year as does the most obtuse administrator.
And the so-called ten percent raise this year was merely catch-up for the raises the teachers should have gotten in the recent past while the administrators’ salaries didn’t miss a beat in their inexorable rise and rubberstamped by a complicit Board.
Voters can demand that this practice of administrator salary bloat stop in Hillsborough County. All they have to do is lay down the law to School Board members. Voters pay the bill.
That Ms. MaryEllen Elia is the third-highest paid superintendent in the nation and can’t use commas correctly is a scandal and a blot on the County’s commitment to literacy for its children.
There are parents in Hillsborough County who know that their children’s getting in to good schools depends on their mastery of language. The entrance essay that good schools require is, on one level, a literacy test of one’s child. The Dartmouths, Princetons, Yales, and Browns don’t accept students who can’t make subjects and verbs agree and who can’t handle commas. Parents should refuse pay a quarter of a million dollars a year to a superintendent and her staff who display marginal literacy.
These parents must hold a flaccid Board’s feet to the fire to turn this situation around.
For further comments on the Hillsborough County school system, go to http://www.leedrurydecesarescasting-roomcouch.blogspotcom.
For grammar-punctuation critiques of the press, go to http://www.grammargrinch.blogspot.com