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Subject: Monkey Biz as usual
Working Document Defines Board-Administration Relationship
Background: A year ago, the Board requested new-member orientation statement. Board members Valdez, Edgecomb, Faliero, and Kurdell met twice and passed suggestions to Dr. Jim Hamilton for the document.
The tardy “working-draft” only recently emerged from Le Hamilton’s office as School Board Members Orientation and Board Procedures.
The product failed to please all the Board. Candy Olson called it “preachy”; Susan Valdez recorded her objections to the inaccuracy of Hamilton’s representation of her committee advice. In response, Le Hamilton--aka as Lord of Administration Orcs-- stalked from the room in high dungeon. Such appears big-baby behavior that Hamilton considers entitlement— even from Board members, who put up with it.
This working document adumbrates the Board’s and administration’s emerging tense relationship. Heretofore, the administration dictated and the Board obeyed. But stirrings of feeble Board resistance have surfaced, causing sub rosa panic amongst administration bedwetters. This production of Hamilton Board protocol presents symptoms of administration unease over loss of power.
Board members Valdez and Faliero objected to the Westchase-boundary debacle that uprooted weeping children and caused parental rebellion against Board and administration. Faliero’s and Valdez’s protests were inadequate, but any slight Board demur sets off alarm bells in the administration as threat to its power over the purse.
The administration had sloughed off an earlier Elia real-estate mess-up when she headed the building department, maintaining that Ms. Elia couldn’t take responsibility for that of which she was ignorant, even though she should not have been ignorant. A Board with backbone would have pushed back and required data for why the serially incompetent Elia didn’t know about the real-estate scam’s costing taxpayers thousands of dollars when a Times reporter had walked in off the street and discovered the scam with ease. It certainly wouldn’t have hired her as superintendent over all the better qualified candidates who could keep abreast of what was going on under their noses.
The administration aimed to quell this two-Board-member and parents’ rebellion because the Board’s examination of the superintendent’s overbuilding of desk space might start a Board trend of demanding administration accountability. Heretofore, the administration has bungled ad seriatim with impunity.
Valdez’s feeble objections met with a leak to the press of her travel budget for conferences and workshops. The administration uses such leaks to swat any Board member who falls out of line and declines to act as a Potted Plant. Carol Kurdell has never had an administration swat-down via a press leak because she does zilch on the Board—her performance’s being near catatonic. Catatonic Board members are administration favorites.
Catatonic press members find administration favor as well. Administrators expect press cooperation in retaliatory leaks on any Board member who dares question an administration screw-up. Any real press scrutiny of the administration comes from across the bay from the SPTimes. Tribune editor Rosemary Goudreau is Elia girlfriend. This sorority guarantees Tribune school coverage as mere stenography for administration talking points and insures a ready weapon with which to slap a Board member who may buck the administration: the editorial blast. All it takes to trigger Board-member editorial rebuke is a call beginning, “Hello, girlfriend.”
Overkill administration response to mild Board resistance reveals the administration’s nervous hold on power and its fluster at the least confrontation from the Board.
For many years the administration has run the show at ROSSAC: bloating its salaries—Elia’s now at $262,000 and rising despite her administrative blunders and inability to punctuate; dispensing contracts in lordly patronage; and using the Professional Standards office with Lucco Brazzi Kipley’s sadistic ministrations to terrorize any teacher who lets out a timid peep of disagreement. But so uneasy lies the crown that any trifling Board mutiny puts this administration on high alert and catalyzes its retaliatory routine.
This working document from Hamilton’s office ranks maladroit maneuver to tie the hands of the Board and shut it down.
Hamilton’s fiat comes off as clumsy, ill-written blunderbuss for the administration’s attempt to whip the Board into line. He doubtless wrote it as the superintendent’s Rasputin with Elia’s looking over his shoulder. This pair of mess-ups now runs the schools with the Board’s lackadaisical complicity, to hell with taxpayers.
But Board bubbles have begun to surface.
Presently Jennifer Faliero’s priority is to up her salary to five percent so that she can move from Wal-Mart to Dillard couture while the buses break down regularly and bus drivers’ salaries are Third World. But there looks to be hope that other Board members will not be supine. Citizens pine for a Board champion to emerge.
Scrutiny of ROSSAC politics suggests that Hamilton lusts for primary superintendent power himself but that some psychological hang-up prevents his seizing it by going for the job directly. Instead, he lurks in the background as puppet master, running the show with a third-rate puppet superintendent out front.
Hamilton manipulates the Board superintendent selection despite better national candidates presenting themselves for hire than the in-house political designate. Since the Board has never manifested much enthusiasm for superintendent excellence, Hamilton’s political-picking campaign does not rank arduous.
A teacher heard Hamilton and Lennard’s bragging years ago in some outlying school where they then both toiled in obscurity that they would run the schools sooner or later. They made good that boast. Earl the Pearl Lennard was Hamilton’s first superintendent power vector; now it’s Elia. Both are in-house incompetents that defy the Board slogan of Excellence in Education.
Ms. Olson’s complaint at the Board meeting after Hamilton’s ukase on Board behavior that the working document sounded preachy speaks to its tone.
Tone in writing refers to the writer’s attitude toward the reader and to the subject of the message.
La Olson’s nose detected Hamilton’s tone as imperious, condescending, and insolent. What she didn’t catch was the underlying panic of a bunch of C students running scared because the Board might rouse itself from years-long acquiescence and accept the power that the voters placed in its members’ hands to run the schools for the community’s benefit, not for the profit of deadwood management minions who suck up school dollars meant for classrooms while botching administration of the schools.
Dr. Hamilton’s ham-fisted document betrays intentions to quell the Board throughout for anyone who bothers to detect them.
Its style is wordy. This Working Document never uses one word when it can cram in a dozen. It never calls a fax anything but a facsimile transmission. The facsimile transmission ranks red-light for an anal-retentive obsession for cramming in as many meaningless words as possible to stupefy the reader.
Wordiness acts cover-up of the document’s purpose and attempts to make the writer’s product seem important by piling verbiage higher and deeper.
Behold a sample paragraph:
The School Board is the government body of the School District of Hillsborough County and is responsible, [sic] with the Superintendent as the Chief Executive Officer, [sic] for the control, operation, organization, management, and administration of public schools in Hillsborough County pursuant to the provisions and standards prescribed by Florida Statutes and State Board of Education Rules [sic]. The School Board may exercise any power except as expressly prohibited by State Constitution or general law. 72 words
The condescension in this bloated paragraph implies Board members are too dumb to know basic information. Boiled down to plain English, the blowsy two-sentence, 72-word paragraph reduces to this:
The Board implements Florida laws and Board-of-Education rules. 8 words
A wise editor would omit the paragraph as insulting Board’s intelligence.
Signature basic-writing errors adorn Dr. Hamilton’s product throughout. In his past infamous system-wide email in which he makes fun of teachers’ paycheck-delivery trouble due to administration computer mess-up, he portrays himself as lounging on a bar stool in Margarittaville whilst mixing up the spelling of “you’re” and “your.”
Far from being a gentleman scholar, Le Hamilton not only does not know homophones but also shows faint grasp of commas or even capitals that the students over whom he presides should know to graduate. For these deficiencies, taxpayers fork over $132,000 and perquisites to a fellow who would have a tough time getting a job in the paint department of Wal-Mart because he couldn’t handle the register.
Passive verbs signal deception. If I could cut and paste the PDF file of this essay into Word, I wager that a run through the grammar checker would reveal an unusually high percentage of passive verbs.
Passive verbs make even people who know nothing about rhetoric justly suspicious. Sneaky passive verbs hide the actor to evade responsibility; hence, politicians love them. Political double-speak says, “It was decided to spend a bazillion dollars,” not “I decided to spend a bazillion dollars.”
Flatulent verbiage exacerbated by passive verbs: Changes that would affect the residence qualifications of any incumbent member so as to disqualify the incumbent member during the term for which he or she has been elected shall not be made.
The document uses passive verbs when referring to Board members to insinuate that they don’t act but are objects of action. The above specimen features two passive verbs. Who is the agent to disqualify an incumbent? The passive verb hides that datum. I supply it: the mighty administration. The administration acts active hammer; the Board reposes passive anvil.
Helplessness drenches passive verbs. In Hamilton’s document, passive verbs immure Board members; but La Elia gets active verbs. The message: Elia rules; the Board obeys. I doubt Dr. Hamilton could explain the psychology of active versus passive verbs and could not differentiate them if his life depended on it. But he, like most people, sense active-passive implication and its impact on the reader.
A bizarre aspect of the tone of this document involves its attempt come off as lofty. It reaches for what linguistic experts call acrolect style. I wager Hamilton would not in a million years be able to define acrolect style without flash cards, but he attempts it nonetheless to augment the gravitas of his pamphlet. My Georgia family calls this pitiful spectacle “Tryin’ to get above your raisin’.”
Acrolect style defines prestige utterances—solemn rituals, formal addresses at political gatherings, speeches before the courts, religious expostulations. The Book of Common Prayer demonstrates sustained acrolect. In Dr. Hamilton’s straining for the majestic in his working-document pamphlet, he makes a risible stab at high rhetorical style. One expects him to lapse into “thou” address ritual of ecclesiastical prose, rhetorical adornment he would have invoked if he had only known about the device.
Unintended slapstick accompanies Dr. Hamilton’s attempt to dignify his piece with the prestige of legal parlance. He resorts to the modal auxiliaries of legal language “shall” and “may” passim. The poor fellow deems this, that, and the other. He, in short, shows himself ridiculous with his stilted, gimcrack legalese that appears unconscious parody of lawyer prose.
I, for one, felt sorry for the old bowser in his loopy attempt at aping the heft that legal argot would give his outpouring. He doesn’t know how to sing that song. His display reminds me of the Geeche and Gullah dialects that emerged in the coastal regions of my home state of Georgia, where past slaves deprived of education by law imperfectly aped the speech of their white masters, emulating sounds that they thought they heard and passing these dialects down to their children. One still hears them. I had a cleaning woman who spoke Gullah. The children didn’t understand a word she said. I did. I had heard the dialect as a child.
Dr. Hamilton lacks the sophistication to approximate legal language. The poor man would drink from the finger bowl if he encountered one at a sit-down embassy dinner.
So threatened was Dr. Hamilton and so bereft of adroit political defense against resistance to his pronouncements that he stomped out of the meeting at which Valdez registered objections to her misinterpreted input into this document. The Board should have underwritten therapy for Dr. Hamilton, not socked another superfluous salary to taxpayers by creating him one more make-work job to justify his hanging around ROSSAC, his glory days behind him.
The kindest thing to do for Dr. Hamilton would be to send him kicking and screaming out to pasture, where he won’t need to reach for erudition that he lacks. Muscular enforcers should tie him to a sapling in Wimauma until tranquility descends on this little Napoleon’s disturbed soul. Rest, rest perturbed spirit.
Meanwhile, Dr. Hamilton intends to throw his weight around and menace the Board with dire vague punishments for violating unnamed rules and regulations.
Consider the language of a section of Dr. Hamilton’s little fiat called “Compliance with Board Procedures.” He doesn’t cite the procedures, leaving them terrifyingly vague.
In the event an individual Board member is not in compliance with Board policies, the alleged noncompliance shall be reported to the School Board Attorney.
OmaGod! Now the noncomplying Board member is in for it. The Reign of Terror has kicked in. The diabolic School Board Attorney will exact punishment for noncompliance with fugitive amorphous rules, with court summonses, with show causes, and with even tsarist-deposition ukazati.
This rigmarole sounds like what teachers face in Linda Kipley’s Professional Standards Abu Gharib. Chain the wretch to the wall in a freezing, damp cell. Bring out the hoods and slavering dogs. Pile up the bodies in a triangle. Desecrate the Koran before the horrified eyes of the naked prisoner.
It gets worse: The School Board Attorney shall investigate any such allegations and if appropriate contact the individual Board Member [sic] and provide advice and counsel as to how to come into compliance with the School Board policies.
Lo, those terrifying modal auxiliary “shall’s” and that blood-curdling “advice and counsel” scarify the accused. Such verbal bomblets mean business. Here comes the knock-on-the-door-in-the-middle-of-the-night a la the Chilean disappeards; the icy presentation of the sealed-and-stamped arrest warrant; the weeping farewell to hysterical family as slobbering School-Board-attorney’s letter-de-cachet thugs pop up to snatch a Board member for a ride through the back roads of Lutz or, worse, Turkey Creek, from whose bourne no targeted Board member ever returns.
If the individual School Board Member [sic] fails to “come into compliance” with these [unnamed] policies, the School Board Attorney [sic] shall send a written memorandum to the Board member advising the Board member of the alleged non-compliance with the explanation of exactly what policy is involved and how the non-compliance occurred. Copies of the memorandum shall be provided to all other Board members.
Oh, that chilling pile-up of passive verbs’ rendering the Board member helpless object; alas, those terrifying words “come into noncompliance” of the pitiless Board attorney’s legal gauntlet thrown at the trembling Board member not “come into compliance with policies” not named; alack, the blood’s in the wretched malefactor’s veins turning to water; and weladay this pitiless whole nine yards,’ making his or her knees knock in abject terror as did Kurt’s in Heart of Darkness,” leading the caitiff to groan, “The horror, the horror!”
There lurks the Working Document circulating amidst Board members the horrific indictment of not “being in compliance” to ensnare a Board wretch with an amorphous standard that ever flies before imperiled members. When a Board member gets cut off from the herd and succumbs to the quicksand of the Working Document, untouched Board traitors, of course, yuk it up in obscene displays of shadenfruede. Some buddies they turned out to be.
Then there are the leaks to the press—the slavering, dreaded Fourth Estate, red in tooth and claw. Elia’s girlfriend Tribune La Goudreau writes scathing editorials, condemning the culprit to the wasteland of never again getting elected to even a seat on the Water Board much less dog catcher. The ectomorphic, chachetic editorial vampire Paul Tash of the St. Petersburg Times pulls his bony being up to his CRT screen’s Kafkaesque light, poses his dripping claws over the keyboard, and pecks in a damning pronuciamento on the not-in-compliance Board wretch’s deficient character and despicable hygiene. It runs as lead editorial for maximum humiliation. Even roly-poly sweetie pie publisher Patrick of La Gaceta goes over to the Dark Side of Grub Street fiends to render a stronger-than-the-usual-pussyfooting rebuke to the targeted Board member in “As We Heard It.”
Oh, the shame, the shame! The fall in social status! The not getting a good table at Bern’s.
At the regularly scheduled meeting of the School Board at least 21 days after the written memorandum, the individual Board Member [sic] who has received the memorandum of non-compliance from the School Board Attorney [sic] shall be afforded an opportunity to explain his or her position to the rest of the Board members. After hearing the explanation, the remaining members of the Board shall vote on the explanation. The remaining members of the Board shall vote on whether or not there was non-compliance and [sic] if so, the School Board will direct the individual Board Member [sic] to comply with School Board policies.
The criminal trudges with leg chains clanking into the majesty of the Board Room, clomps to the front of the room to occupy the dock where despised citizens appear to enter useless pleas for succor to contemptuous Board members, and confesses in a voice threaded with terror, “I’m sorry that I spelt the word,/I hate to go above you.”/ I’m sorry that I spelt the word/ Because, you see, I love you.”
The implacable collaborators of the in-compliance Board stare in frigid rebuke at the ostracized former colleague but current scapegoat and express annoyance to have their deliberations interrupted on whether cup cakes or Little Debbies along with Diet Coke constitute the right choice for next Board summit.
If the individual School Board Member [sic] continues to fail to comply with the School Board policies, the School Board may vote to request that the Governor remove the offending Board Member [sic] from office.
So it’s off to the pokey for the non-complying Board member. Radames’ Aida tomb song wafts from the sound system. Oh, what a falling off was that. Goodnight, sweet prince. The rest is silence.
Besides the attempt to scare the be-Jesus out of Board members to terrify them into mute acquiescence to administration’s incompetence, Le Hamilton makes further attempts to render Board members submissive by infantilizing them.
These tactics include codifying even Board behavior, to wit:
There are to be no sidebar conversations during Board meetings for Board members.
Note bene a double standard obtains for Board members and administration for the conduct of sidebar prattle. The sidebar proscription does not apply to administrators. I witnessed Les Hamilton’s and Otero’s performance at one meeting when the Board discussed policy whilst Hamilton balanced a bottle of water above his head, ate some substance that he rescued from the bowels of his pockets, and told jokes to Otero, to which Otero responded with raucous laughter. The Board chair did not check this behavior. Administrators conduct sidebar conversations with impunity during Board discussion to a faretheewell with the Board chair's waiting for a lull in administrator side bars to resume official speech.
The Board members are to respect diverse opinions.
Le Hamilton imperfectly modeled this behavior when he arose and stomped out of the meeting in which Board Member Valdez recorded her disagreement with Hamilton’s version of her input into the working pamphlet.
Board members must observe the Board-adopted civility in all settings.
Oh, yeah? Dr. Lamb and Ms. Olson blew this obligation to hell and back when at Tiger Bay Dr. Hamilton shouted me down, blustering that he didn’t want to hear my protest of the Board’s raising its salary before the teachers’ salaries got attention while La Olson nodded her hearty approval of Lamb’s resisting a citizen’s Constitutional right to approach an elected official for redress of grievances. Thus fares civility in all settings.
Things get worse. Dr. Hamilton dictates even correct Board body language. I’m not making this up.
School Board members will demonstrate positive body language.
What comprises “positive” Hamilton mercifully omits. But his jumping up and stalking out in protest of Valdez’s diverse opinion would not be role model for this dictum. Nor would his and Otero’s eating, drinking, display qualify as positive body language.
Now here’s a Kafkaesque directive: the Board is to Practice open, honest communication. The double standard cuts in here big-time with Elia’s cover-up of overbuilding and repudiating any knowledge of the real-estate scam. Open, honest conversation, my big foot!
The Board must fully comply with the intent of all provisions of the ethics provisions of FL law for Public Officers and employees.
I read the online ethics requirements for education’s public servants. The administration minions give those the lie from the minute they step into ROSSAC a.m. until they leave p.m. When convenient, they defy ethics provisions on the weekends.
Hamilton inserts pile-ups of protocols to discourage Board members’ attempts to lay hold of information—providing that a rare Board member may not rest content as Potted Plant.
Under the obstacle rubric of “Three Levels of Requests,” Dr. Hamilton clocks in with impediments Board members must overcome to extract information from the administration. This administration’s hiding information makes the White House shutdown on information look lax.
Even Board members who want to know what’s going on behind the Wizard-of-Oz administration curtain’s blackout must run a gauntlet of impediments to discourage their laying hold of even scuttlebutt the administration wants concealed. Hamilton inserts privileged-information cautions ad lib.
The Board’s constant excuse about not knowing about an outrage until it appears in the press doubtless has to do with the administration’s resistance to providing its members with open access to the information needed to do their job—not that this resistance excuses Board members their laziness and gutlessness in insisting that they receive that data from the administration to conduct the job voters elected them to do.
The cherry on the cake to infantilize Board members is Dr. Hamilton’s dress code. You heard me: Dress Code. Consult page 18 of the Working Document if you doubt. Dr. Hamilton sets himself up as the Mr. Blackwell of School-Board couture with these animadversions on appropriate dress for Board members.
As elected officials [sic] Board Members [sic] have established expectations for appropriate attire. Board members have established an expectation for business attire for Members [sic] attending official Board meetings and functions at which the Member [sic] represents the Board. Business casual dress has been an established minimum expectation for certain workshops, office visits, etc. The Board has established the same standards for modesty and good taste for themselves as they have established in their policies for students and employees.
Cotton Mather guided Dr. Hamilton with the modesty concept after requiring him to write a book report on Mather’s Manuductio Ministerium.
This whacko dress code for elected officials lurks in the Kafkaesque regions of Looney Tunes.
One should be grateful, one supposes, that this strange man did not append the requirement that Board members must follow the established custom of pinning hankies to their collars, cleaning their fingernails, not blowing their noses on their sleeves, and flossing twice daily. The modesty injunction means women Board members can’t wear Brittany Spears’ couture to express their inner sluts; nor may Dr. Lamb wear Italian pantaloons to display crotch bulge. Where’s the fun in such a life? “Oh,” to quote Kurt again, “The horror, the horror!”
These infantile Board members, Dr. Hamilton implies, are still learning to tie their shoes and to not leave their zippers open and clothes disordered after scheduled bathroom breaks to pee. That a grown man making $132,000 a year extracted from oblivious taxpayers could write such twaddle in a school document describing School-Board decorum surpasses weird and moves into Twilight Zone.
Getting into the spirit of Dr. Hamilton’s couture crackdown, allow me to weigh in on his sartorial lacks. Dr. Hamilton needs know that anybody making $132,000 a year has money sufficient to buy a non-polyester suit at some emporium a cut above J.C. Penny’s, upon the which a skillful tailor can do wonders to conceal belly bulge. He should act on this advice stat for administration aesthetic éclat.
I persevere with this public-service project by decamping tomorrow on a trek from the beach to the Board public-affairs downtown outpost to review Sunshine data that Hamilton alleges undergirds his astonishing pamphlet. These data include the original notes that went from him from four Board members’ two workshops; the names of the committees he alleges had input into this document; the notes and summaries from those committees; and the identification of a second eye witness to his stomping out on Valdez’s reading of her objections.
This research is a lot like my past trudging through folders of university libraries to discover the roots of the troubadour tradition in the Middle Ages—only not as lively as the Middle-Ages project. At least the troubadours sang.
One hopes that Dr. Hamilton has not fudged these data. If so, he must issue another papal-bull pamphlet that outlines protocols for punishment for an administrator’s huffing and puffing and blowing the house down while lying like a rug.
The penalty for Being Found Out and Not Following Established Protocols will go hard for Dr. H. He must stand in the stocks on Franklin Street for a yet-undetermined number of days during shopping hours and must empty the garbage cans in the employee cafeteria at ROSSAC during the Christmas season for the edification and delight of the janitors.