Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Explication de Texte of $80,000 for Empty Desks

Literary criticism uses “explication de texte” to describe the technique of dismantling a piece of writing to extract its implications.

T.S. Eliot called “explication de texte” the “lemon-squeezer theory of criticism.”

This method I shall employ on St. Petersburg Times School-board- reporter Letitia Stein’s piece on the administration’s building classroom additions unjustified by enrollment. Special explication-de-texte scrutiny goes to the Board’s claim of ignorance of the whole enterprise.

lee drury de cesare

A case study
District schools with additional classrooms


[Times photo: Joseph Garnett Jr.]
Writing specialist Sarah Garcia helps fourth-grader Tyler John during an exercise at
Kingswood Elementary.

TAMPA — Over the last two years, Hillsborough school officials have spent almost $80-million adding classroom wings to schools around the county.

Eighty million dollars represents serious tax money. School administrations shouldn’t throw citizens’ money around hey nonny nonny as they habitually do. One expects big-bucks projects like this to require minute scrutiny, discretion, judgment, professional savvy, and a file of complete records containing every dot and tittle of detail for anyone interested to scrutinize the process. Taxpayers have a right to minimally sane judgment from the horde of administrators who leach bloated salaries from taxpayers and claim to be worth them.

Most Board members campaign on the promise to “watch every penny of tax-money expenditure.” They promptly forget the pledge when they get into office only to renew it the next time they stand for election. Politicians on School Boards count on voters’ not remembering their promises on financial probity.

Current Board members have been asleep at the switch on the proliferation of $80,000 worth of desks without students to fill them. So much for watching every penny of taxpayer money.

One expects elected School Board to bear final responsibility for this $80, 0000 to honor its pledge to voters for oversight. The administration is supposed to carry out Board policies, not vice versa. Voters vote with expectation that this equation be valid.

If the Board be too cowardly and lazy to do its job, the administration moves into the vacuum. This has been the pattern so long that the administration has appropriated reverse hegemony in the matter of authority. The root of the problem is a weak Board let the in-house political bottom feeders pick the superintendent backstairs over better qualified outside candidates in the sunshine. The success of this maneuver fulfills the administration’s lust for power over the taxpayer purse to pump up their salaries and to appropriate the power of handing out lucrative contracts.

The problem: At about half of those 36 schools, the district created many more seats than it had students.

A problem pops up after the project has been completed? Was everybody at ROSSAC asleep during this time? All the world of the education industry knows that academic weaklings flock to administration jobs. Candidates with non-academic degrees from marginal institutions that border on diploma mills are perennial successful applicants for administration sinecures. Administration’s where the money is. Administration’s where the no-work jobs are.

Was the potted-planted Hillsborough County Board more somnolent on the overbuilt desks dilemma than usual and skipped oversight per Board tradition? How come they looked the other way at thirty-six schools with extra seats? Doesn’t the Board require these $100,000-plus administrators to have the ability to count desks? Why did they miscount them? Can their stupidity be so abysmal that they can’t count desks? Where is the record of the counts? Where was the Board as all this miscounting of desks was in the works? Can the Board produce the memos its members sent to administration for data on the project? Reasonable people would like to know.

Officials filled some of the excess seats this year by forcing hundreds of students to switch schools through boundary changes. Many more could face moves in coming months.

I attended the heart-wrenching session of the Westchase boundary changes. Parents filled the Board room to overflowing to beg for intervention in their children’s being jerked around by the administration’s move to cover up overbuilding of additions at the expense of taxpayers and the torture of the children.

The Board sat as unmoved as the priests who put Radames to death in Aida while parents uttered broken-hearted pleas for their youngsters. The Board members’ faces betrayed profound ennui at ubiquitous parental sorrow and weeping.

Only Valdez and Faliero made weak attempts to intervene. They mewed one or two words and then subsided into acquiescence.

Board members are scared of the sound of their own voices. God forbid that they challenge the administrative malfunctioning automatons. The children lost that one. They will lose the next reboundarying too if Board members remain as gutless and as ignorant as they insist on being now.

A St. Petersburg Times investigation shows:

Why does the St. Petersburg Times have to walk in off the street, review the situation, and report the facts to the public instead of the Board’s staying on top of all these administration snafus and presenting the public the facts?

Think back to the recent real-estate rip-off of the public in Ms. Elia’s building department before she became superintendent. The excuse then and always is that nobody knew about it—not the administration supposed to be in charge of things, not the Board supposed to boss the administration. What does the public pay them for—to sit around and pare their cuticles?

• Hillsborough administrators knew before they broke ground on at least eight of the classroom wings that enrollment at those schools had dropped markedly. But they built them anyway, spending almost $15-million on construction.

“Built them anyway,” did they? This arrogance shows contempt for the Board—justified, alas-- and a criminal lack of concern about throwing tax money on a whopping mistake to detoxify it.

• When they planned the wings, administrators assumed that minority students would choose to stay in schools outside their neighborhoods after busing for desegregation ended in 2004. That didn’t happen. In fact, minority students fled suburban schools in droves, contributing to the excess seats.

On what did they base this assumption: an Ouija Board analysis? Or did they throw darts? Where are the studies they had done to gauge the probable choice patterns of minority students?

If Hamilton must hire a consulting firm for $132,000 to tell him how to make the school buses run on time even before the featherbedding job the Board created for him had its job description in writing, why couldn’t Elia et al farm out this task if none of the horde of C students making $100,000-plus a year on the administration gravy train didn’t have the skills do this survey?

One supposes it would be too much to expect somebody in the administration deadwood’s having taken a statistics course or knowing enough to suggest hiring a firm to do the work of the administration ignoramuses.

One knows for sure administrators Femme-Fatale-Kindergarten-Mata- Hari Connie or Hollandaise-Sauce-Sans-Lumps Kipley didn’t have any such intellectually rigorous course in their bona fides. Singing “Eency Wency Spider” or whipping up a string-bean casserole is not the expertise called for to come up with statistical projections.

This desk-count mess-up demonstrates why the Board needs to open up top jobs to others besides the inside mediocrities that got their jobs by sycophancy to top administration quidnuncs. Ability on their resume was the last thing Elia’s minions looked for: loyalty to the top was winning credential.

• Incorrect capacity numbers for five of the schools that received wings made them look more crowded on district reports than they actually were. School officials stand by their decision to build, saying it was based on solid projections. But three of the schools were targeted for boundary changes last year, and one is still under consideration.

Lies, lies, and damned lies are what we have here piled onto incompetence. These people are brazen in fabricating for reporters’ consumption manufactured spin information, but the Board never asks the administration for explanation and wouldn’t know or care what it meant if its members got it. They don’t read anything, apparently. They spend the entire Board meeting gushing about how wonderful everything is.

I want to see the rationale in writing for this administrative swashbuckling.

• School Board members say they weren’t told about enrollment changes at specific schools as they approved each step in the wings’ construction. Several members said future projects will need a more thorough and public vetting.

Are their mouths stopped up so that they can’t demand answers to targeted questions? Do they need a Romper Room lecture and pictures? When they “approved each step in the wings construction,” what did they think they were approving? What’s clear here is that the voters should initiate recall petitions on the whole lot of these potted plants. These Board poseurs are too dumb to sit on a School Board. They are, in fact, too dumb to be crossing guards.

“It’s time for us to talk about changing how we do business,” School Board member Candy Olson said.

Ms. Olson has been on the Board so long that she has grown to her seat. She had gone along with business as usual all these years. She’s enchanted with the social dimensions of Board membership.

Was Olson in a coma all these years? This was the same scenario that took place in the real-estate scam--identical. Nobody acknowledged anything. Nobody had participated. Things had just mysteriously happened as the Board kept signing the pages ripping off taxpayers that the administration laid before them. The administration claimed they flatlined.

Ms. Olson eagerly voted for Ms. Elia for the superintendent job and now wakes up to the need for a new way of doing business. Choosing a competent superintendent would have been a new way to business. Olson will huff and puff briefly for the cameras about the “new business” imperative, but she will do zilch to challenge the incompetence of which she is part and subside back into the old-biz potted plant that is her destiny.

Hillsborough’s troubles may offer a cautionary tale to other Florida school districts, especially those spending millions on new classrooms in order to meet the state’s tightening class-size restrictions.

Never mind other districts. They are on their own. We must keep eyes peeled on the Keystone Kops who mishandle things in Hillsborough County’s district.

Hillsborough superintendent MaryEllen Elia doesn’t think it should. She calls criticism of the district’s handling of the wings shortsighted, saying all of the unused seats will be filled once class-size limits are enforced in each classroom in 2008.

One wonders whom the superintendent calls “shortsighted” in such absolute confidence for the mess she has made. One infers she means the Board is shortsighted if it doesn’t play dead as it usually does and accept the boondoggle as the product of a mind—Elia’s—which says the administration’s big booboo will all come out ok in the end because the administration will institute—ta dah!—boundary changes and throw the children into the maw its mistakes. God forbid that the Board object and fire this mess-up artist. Crossing guard is her level of ability.

Administrators always knew they could fall back on boundary changes.

Oh, certainly. The administration can always tear up communities and terrify children by moving the tots around to rectify their incompetence. And the Board will play along with the outrage. That’s SOP.

“We could put kids into the available capacity the same way we’d have to do it if we built a new school,” said Jim Hamilton, a high-ranking administrator for special issues.

Now that’s the kind of airtight wisdom Le Jimbo manufactures by the bushel. What an adornment he is to the high calling of windbaggery. He pulls the threat of a new school out of the air to justify the overbuilt classrooms. He seems to be threatening the Board with building a new school that’s not needed if its members challenge all the desks that exist with no students occupying them. The Board members will dive under their podium desks for fear of this old tax-paid bloated charlatan. Oh, my: Le Hamilton’s fierce and scares us all to death.

With that kind of logical ability, it’s no wonder the School Board featherbedded this old bloviating air-bag darling a job and placed him in it before the job description appeared on the books. It’s a wonder that he can navigate to his house to his third wife every night. She must hang out a lantern.

Hamilton’s well known talent is as ROSSAC Don Juan par excellence. He has acquired the reputation of being a good kisser, but the competition for this honor is not keen in the halls of ROSSAC.

But school officials never warned parents. This spring, several parents unhappy that their kids were being moved from crowded neighborhood schools to schools with empty seats asked why so many of the under filled campuses had new wings. They said they never got a straight answer from the district.

School officials don’t warn parents as a matter of policy although they constantly harp on welcoming parents’ participation. Parents didn’t get “a straight answer from the district” about the moving of children to schools where the district had crammed in extra seats because this administration does not deal in straight answers. This administration backed by a supine Board has no scruples about playing parents for fools, including bald-faced lying to them. Straight answers and truth are not in this administration’s repertory.

Linda Archer’s daughter was moved from Westchase Elementary, still crowded after a classroom addition, to Lowry Elementary, which also got a new wing. Even now, as her family gets used to the new school, she wonders if all the extra space was really necessary.

Ms. Archer should put her question in writing to the School Board, send a copy to the state education commissioner requesting oversight, send a copy to the governor requesting oversight, and send a copy to the editors of local papers and the current Board reporters.

The Board routinely ignores its emails, as does the administration. Both of these specimens need to know somebody in authority is watching.

“People came to their own conclusion that somebody messed up in their calculation,” said Archer, now content with her daughter’s school. “Whether we had to move or not, I want to know why that money’s being spent.”

Hear! Hear! for Ms. Archer. We all want to know why the money’s being spent on mistakes. If you can extract that data from this gang of incompetents at the ROSSAC enclave, we will all doff our hats to you.

Elia said it’s good to have excess room in a district as large as Hillsborough, where new subdivisions are rising faster than schools in some suburban neighborhoods.

An extension of Elia’s logic would sanctify building football fields of empty desks. I want to see the statistics of this purported burgeoning of student-desk needs. One cannot trust the word of this administration. Lying is an all-purpose administrative technique. This is the administration that distorted the student figures to sucker the county into giving it more impact-fee money based on inflated figures with no local back-up studies to validate them. Steve Hegarty admitted to me that he sent that information to the County.

In fact, officials are now moving forward with plans to build classroom wings at 46 more schools.

Do those “officials” include the School Board? Do they justify the need with valid studies with backup data? No guesswork will do here. We want hard, cold data.

A no-win situation

The taxpayers lose when $80 million dollars get spent with no Board oversight.

Hillsborough has built many classroom additions over the years. Officials say they are much cheaper than new schools because there is no need to buy land or pay for expensive extras like cafeterias and libraries.

No more buying land for Ms. Elia: she has shown she can’t handle that chore and keep records on it and keep the land barons from overcharging citizens with Elia’s blessing. Unneeded classroom additions are twin to Elia’s real-estate scam that she presided over but subsequently claimed ignorance about.

In recent years, wings have replaced many portables on campuses. At its peak, Hillsborough had about 3,000 portables. Today, the number has dropped to about 1,900.

One should demand to see some solid statistics on this claim. Did a disinterested person do that count? I want to see the notarized statement of such. As Reagan said, “Trust but verify” with this administration’s loose handling of the truth. Gorbachev would be an infinitely more reliable bargaining partner than any of the administration henchmen and henchwomen.

But when administrators began planning the latest round of wings, they knew the high-growth district was entering a volatile period. Class-size requirements were starting to tighten. And a federal judge had just ended three decades of busing for desegregation. No one knew what impact that would have on enrollment at individual schools.

Did the administration do anything but consult a Ouija Board? Did it do projection studies? Did the Board demand them? Are these on file for the public to review? Has the Tooth Fairy given up on Hillsborough County to be seen no more?

Hamilton said the district was in a no-win situation. If children came to schools that lacked seats, the district would be blamed. But it also would be blamed if it overbuilt, he said.

This guy is great at rationalization. His lame-logic affliction is chronic. He’s not adept at hard-headed thinking that prevents the problems he posits as inevitable. Chance does not decide these things if anybody with a brain is involved. The district needs to ascertain with studies how many seats it needs; then it builds according to solidly supported need, not vague guesses made by the mental dwarfs in this administration.

“They weren’t choices about, 'Gosh, we should just build these empty rooms so we could irritate people by moving the boundaries,’”
Hamilton said.

Note Hamilton’s clumsy sarcasm instead of repentance about his contribution to the mess-ups. He thinks he’s too important for anyone to question is flops. Hamilton’s amour propre has feeble justification. Somebody should inform the bluster buster of that fact.

Hamilton doesn’t believe the Board will hold the administration to account because the Board has ever demonstrated lack of interest or guts ever to hold this incompetent administration’s feet to the fire.

No one is taking responsibility for initiating the wings. Current administrators say they weren’t closely involved. Elia, then the district’s facilities chief, oversaw the planning but says the projects were identified before her time.

Same old same old. This is the exact response to the real-estate scam. No body knew anything. Nobody had signed off. Nobody was responsible. And the Board did not press for the paper trail. So it was not responsible either.

Records, however, show she signed off on most of the wings in the district’s long-term construction plan.

I think we must accept that Ms. Elia is a congenital liar. She tells fibs when it is convenient. She tells fibs for fun. She lies reflexively and chronically.

Already fewer kids

Even as district officials were planning the new wings, some of the schools slated to receive them were losing students.

One assumes that the school principals passed these data along to ROSSAC, where the recipients tossed the documents into the trash can.

God forbid that reality impinge on the lucubrations of the Laputans who run the administration and the Board. Compared to these hapless administrators, Gulliver’s Laputans presented models of rigorous thinking when they struck each other over the head with air-filled bladders to wake up colleagues so that they could think.

But officials didn’t pull the plug on those projects, which could have saved about 90 percent of their cost. They also didn’t discuss the changing enrollment picture with the School Board.

Why should they discuss pissing away tax money with the Board? When did the Board ever reign in this gaggle of incompetents or ask them any hard questions about anything, especially wasting tax money? They are free to romp incompetently at will. The Board will sit like potted plants and ignore the outrages.

Somebody should check for a pulse on the Board members.

Instead, at the meeting where four of the troubled projects received final approval, school officials talked at length about a $360-million shortfall in future construction dollars.

The Board was more interested in earmarks leeched from taxpayers to support more incompetence than it was about the projects on which it stamped final approval without scrutiny.

Elia, who had just been appointed superintendent, mentioned double sessions and staggered school schedules as options for dealing with overcrowded schools. Her warnings framed a yearlong lobbying effort and were instrumental in getting the
Hillsborough County Commission to approve a huge increase in impact fees for schools, a gradual rise on new homes from $196 to $4,000.

The snookering of the County Commission equates to malfeasance of both the administration and the Board. When the school system sends lies to the County to support its greedy claims the next time, the County should refuse to play along. Sending a return message of “fat chance” will represent condign county riposte.

Elia stands by her recommendation to build at the schools that were losing enrollment. She invokes class size and the need to provide room for school choice, the district’s plan for maintaining diversity after the end of court-ordered busing.

Did any Board member ask La Elia for studies that back up her ruminations? The administration runs on rumor and guesses. There is not science—much less common sense--- behind any of its projects.

“If you have movement one year, that doesn’t mean necessarily that you jerk back and say, 'Let’s not do this,’” Elia said.

That’s the kind of whacko syllogism that the superintendent tenders when she has just messed up big time. What kind of “movement” is she talking about? Did she document that “movement”? What does she mean by “jerk back”? Isn’t it smart to reevaluate a project when new data obviate a need? Isn’t that what an agile thinker in the superintendent’s chair should do? And isn’t the job of the Board to ask questions that elicit answers to concerns about a course correction?

But what about the case of Kenly Elementary?

Kenly was my grammar school. It’s holy territory. I don’t want the incompetent hands of the administration to contaminate my grammar school.

Before the School Board gave final approval for a new wing at Kenly, enrollment there plunged almost 130 students — a 21 percent decrease in a year. The 180-seat addition cost $1.5-million. It was one of the district’s smaller projects.

That area around Kenly is increasingly industrial. Didn’t anybody have the eyes to notice that fact? Children don’t live in factories that surround a school.

Today, Kenly is using 68 percent of its capacity and has more than 200 available seats. The district wants schools to use at least 90 percent of their capacity. If a school doesn’t meet that threshold, it can be considered for a boundary change.

Oh, the old cure-all boundary change: to hell with the lives of the kids it throws into confusion. The main thing is to give the administration dullards a fall-back move to cover up their obtuse decisions at the expense of the kids.

Nineteen of the schools that have opened classroom wings since 2005 don’t meet the standard. A dozen are using 85 percent or less of their space. The rest are close to 90 percent, though it took a boundary change to get three to that level.

Now isn’t that a swell record for an administrator who leaches $260,000 from taxpayers with Board complicity, who can’t punctuate, and who can’t, we now learn, count desks?

In Kenly’s case, school officials are considering pulling in students from nearby Schmidt Elementary, which is overcrowded.

Of course, let the kids suit up and board the buses as hostages to the ROSSAC dumb bells.

District officials knew this was a possibility when they built the wing at Kenly, but never reached out to families at Schmidt.

When did the administration and Board ever “reach out” to families? They are lolling around in Laputan ROSSAC La La Land drawing up more incompetent plans to screw up things further.

“Why would I go disturb something that may not necessarily have to be disturbed?” deputy superintendent Ken Otero said.

Will somebody trap this guy in the mop closet and administer a Stanford Binet test to him? What he says makes not a whit of sense. This is what goes for probity of such overpaid lower-quartile dingdongs as Le Otero.

Some School Board members say communication should have been better. And they were surprised when the Times told them about enrollment drops at some of the schools that got wings. They would have liked to have discussed the possibilities.

Board members always say communication could have been better and then go back to sleep. The problem is not communication. The problem is incompetence and lying to cover up incompetence, both of which the Board exacerbates by incestuous in-house hiring of all the dummies collected in the halls and cubicles of ROSSAC.

“It makes me uncomfortable when I hear that they added a wing and then they knew that the enrollment was declining,” School Board member Jennifer Faliero said.

Now isn’t this a decisive comment? Faliero reigns major dingdong on the School Board. Not long ago she declared that hiring Ms. Elia was a “bargain.” If Elia is a bargain at $260,000, then Mickey Mouse is Einstein. Faliero should be put in a strait-jacket until she is defeated and can do no more harm to the school system.

Flight from suburbs

Looking back, it’s clear administrators made one mistake: They assumed the end of busing for desegregation would not significantly affect minority enrollment at the district’s suburban schools.

On what did they base this assumption? Did they have any studies done to buttress it? Where are these studies? Facts, facts, and more facts are what we want.

That belief was shattered on the first day of classes in August 2004, when minority students who had been bused to the suburbs flooded schools closer to their homes.

Didn’t it make sense to the ROSSAC quidnuncs to infer that the kids would want to the schools closest to their homes? And didn’t the ROSSAC mess-ups have studies done to confirm their assumption that the kids would stay put after busing ended?

“We anticipated more of the youngsters remaining at their schools,” said former superintendent Earl Lennard, noting that many of the students who were being bused for desegregation initially told school officials they intended to stay put.

Dr. Earl the Pearl Lennard—who couldn’t punctuate himself out of a paper bag---would not be able to document this statement that “many of the students who were being bused…told school officials that they intended to stay put” if his life depended on it. Like Ms. Elia, the Pearl let rumor and guesswork guide his decision-making and to hell what the errors cost the taxpayers.

One does not rebuke Plant City’s having produced Earl the Pearl; but one does not congratulate the town for its native son. Condolences are appropriate for the Plant City Chamber of Commerce and the permanent Strawberry Festival Committee.

But in school districts across the nation, the end of busing had prompted rapid resegregation. Some School Board members now acknowledge they should have seen it coming in Hillsborough, where several suburban schools slated to get wings saw their population of black students decrease sharply.

So if resegregation has occurred across the nation after busing’s end, what made the Hillsborough County Great Thinkers believe things would be different here?

Does that mean the board would have reconsidered some of the wings?

“Hindsight is wonderful,” said School Board chairwoman Carolyn Bricklemyer, who said things weren’t so clear then. “Looking back on it … I don’t know that I would have said yes.”

Ms. Bricklemyer is a society matron who should never have abandoned rolling bandages at the Junior League to run for the School Board. The students lost when she won election. She has given up her seat, Thank you Jesus and Socrates. If one deconstructs her ditzy remark, she says, in effect, “I didn’t know what was going on then and still don’t know. And I continue not to know what I didn’t know then.”

The roomy northwest

So far, the area hardest hit by the fallout from the new wings is northwest Hillsborough, where a high concentration of schools with available room were [sic] sitting next to crowded campuses.

What a feast of ripping off the kids these circumstances proffer for ROSSAC sadists. They licked their chops at the prospect of thousands of sobbing reassigned tots. They don’t know who the Marquis de Sade is; but he’s their fairy godmother and mentor but would never live in Hillsborough County because de Sade is an intellectual.

In 2004 and 2005, the School Board approved wings for five elementary schools — Bellamy, Lowry, Morgan Woods, Town and Country and
Woodbridge. With the exception of Bellamy, every one ended up with enough excess seats to be put on the list for boundary changes.

Boundary changes come to the rescue of administration incompetence once again.

The district’s decision to build a new school in the area may have exacerbated the problem.

“May have exacerbated the problem”? What about this? “The stupid decision to build another school amidst all these empty desks played hell and presents primie facie case for the stupidity of the administration quidnuncs.”

Then a committee of outraged parents should trundle a guillotine into the ROSSAC parking lot for heads to roll for all administrators making over $100,000 a year. Board heads roll as finale. A Madam Defarge will materialize from Central Casting to keep count. Then a new Board can hire her to keep count of desks. Sheriff Dee can provide the guy with the mask to make short shrift of the head-chopping task.

The schools will be the better for this purge. Civic-minded citizens can bid for a guillotine on eBay. EBay guillotines are a bargain. Taxpayers won’t object to paying the winning bid. They know a guillotine is a crying need for School Board chores.

Davis Elementary opened in August 2004, drawing heavily from surrounding schools. School officials expected to siphon off more than 200 students from Lowry and similarly large numbers from Dickenson and Westchase elementaries.

We won’t ask for any studies that backed up this assumption. This administration never deigns to resort to logic when guesswork and superstition are at their beck.

But the impact reverberated to other schools, including Morgan Woods, Town and Country and
Woodbridge. All had new wings under design.

Of course they had new wings under design. New Wings reign fashion statement of the ROSSAC ninnies. When administrators pass each other in the ROSSAC halls, they give a thumbs-up to signal a new round of class-room add-ons to house more empty desks.

“You had double relief for the community,” said Bill Person, now the district’s general director for pupil placement but then a school principal.

“Double relief”? What does Bill mean by that term? Is he saying that building new schools and tacking on wings to produce overcapacity are “double relief”? Bill needs a Baker-Act referral.

Is Bill bucking to join the ROSSAC enclave? When Elia sees this idiotic comment, Bill’ll be a shoo-in for the next $100,000 ROSSAC slot. The dumber they come, the higher they go.

Today, Morgan Woods is using 71 percent of its seats. Town and Country stands at 74 percent. Woodbridge is using just 68 percent of its capacity, though school officials say it would be full after a boundary change this year if an apartment complex hadn’t converted to condos and driven families with children away.

If wishes were horses, beggars would ride. Don’t the local school people keep up with the neighborhood building patterns like this condo conversion? The developers didn’t keep it a secret. They advertised it to sell the condos. And what are the excuses for other schools sitting with empty desks? The administration can use condo conversion only once.

School Board member Susan Valdes, who represents the area, remains worried about the excess capacity in the northwest.

Ms. Valdez should be more than worried. She should be hopping mad. Her opponent in the next Board race she faces will nail her on her somnolence during this desk debacle. She will have no excuse.

“That’s a concern that we don’t have the students to fill all those seats,” she said.

A “concern”? Is this feeble comment all that a Board member who bosses the administrative minions can come up with? Valdez needs a course in invective. She should ream out these incompetent, hubristic administrators, starting with Elia. They did a project that cost taxpayers $80 million dollars based on nothing but their intuition: no studies, no justification. They did not consult the Board, their putative bosses.

One hopes that Valdez can summon the rumba-de-cojones requirement to say, “Fellow Board members, I move that we fire Ms. Elia and organize a search team for a competent outside administrator who can count desks immediately.”

Suspicious during Elia’s watch of the building department, a reporter walked in off the street from the St. Petersburg Times and asked a few questions. We learned the results when the reporter turned over a rock and the bugs went scurrying for cover and he wrote about it in the Times.

This real-estate report invokes the same scenario for the reporter who covers the school district for the Times. Now the public knows about the overbuilt desks and the cover-up of the outrage at the expense of the children’s psyches due to this current Times report on the desk outrage.

Steve Hegarty had Hillsborough County beat for a long time. Le Steve avoided printing negative information about the district, sucked up to the administration, and got the Public Relations head job for $91,000 a year without the cited credentials over candidates who did have them and despite his feeble writing ability. His sycophancy while a reporter was his chief credential. He now lies like a rug to the tune of the administration public-relations flimflam. It was he who cheerfully sent the bogus figures to the County Commission that led it to jack up impact fees to provide these incompetent administrators more money to squander.

The administration gets no criticism from the Board. The school administration is not used to criticism—even from the press, which is supposed to be vigilant in the public interest. So when the press exposes the mess the administration has made of the overbuilt classrooms, Ms. Elia and Dr. Hamilton, her knock-off Rasputin, get questioned by the reporter about their incompetence, a new experience for them. But they are not apologetic but defiant and sarcastic. The Board? Its members are asleep at the switch as usual.

These two public-office deadwood—Elia and Hamilton-- have become accustomed to the perquisite of chronic incompetence and bloated pay with nobody’s objecting, least of all the Board.

The Board never presses the case. Board members are too gutless or too disinterested to dig in and do the job taxpayers elected them to do.

At the recent Board meeting discussing the desk problem in customary lackadaisical manner, the administration launched the Romper Room counter-intelligence move of promoting booklets for incoming Board members to tell them how to act.

There is only one incoming Board member: Ms. Griffin. She defeated Allen, the 36-year school administration veteran that the administration supported on the q.t. because he was already house-broken and would vote the administration line. This laying-down-the-law booklet’s obvious target is new member
Griffin. She may challenge lying and other administrative techniques until the administration and other Board members wear her down.

Page 5 of the Warning Pamphlet for Board Members has ominous legal language about the Board member’s being the target of the Board attorney’s beady eye for various and sundry infractions. That attorney threat looks like Board-member intimidation to this citizen, although the Board ninnies said, when the administration slyly introduced the pamphlet at a regular Board meeting, that it was a swell idea, that they wished that they had had this useful pamphlet when they themselves had started serving on the Board—which for Dr. Lamb would be in the Pleistocene Era. This response sets a new standard for Board stupidity.

The only way to even the score in this area is for the Board to riposte with a companion booklet on deportment for the administration and have the school attorney target the ROSSAC whiz kids with warnings and implied unpleasant legal consequences for such infractions as contained in this Stein Times article about lying to the press, lying to the Board, lying to the citizenry, failing to honor the Sunshine Law, flimflamming parents during boundary debacles, failing to inform the Board of such things as real-estate scams, overbuilding desk space, and covering the last named up with reboundary projects to torture kids passed off as needed changes, etc., etc.

Romance and non-job-related erotic didos of any degree whatsoever including making eyes over the water cooler on the ROSSAC premises that lead to home-wreckings, divorces, and administrative promotions, especially to Tallahassee, should merit the attorney’s most sweeping language of the dire consequence for guilty administrators.

Of course, the Professional Standards head should have outlined for her in as vivid legal language as resides in the Board attorney’s Perry- Mason vocabulary—with as many “aforementioneds,” “to wits,” and “the party of the first parts” as possible to lend weight and terror to the legal proceedings hinted, which are to be performed in the village square-- the unpleasant consequences of that department’s torturing teachers by making them sort pens and humiliating them in other despicable ways, activities presently rampant in that hell hole of degradation for teachers.

The attorney must cite any forbidden behavior on the head of Professional Standard’s part’s resulting in skinning alive, dying her hair in her most hated hue, and other suchlike condign punishments, all listed in the Florida Statutes to be reaffirmed by Governor Crist shortly after he takes office in a “Springtime for Charlie” gala modeled after the Broadway hit “Springtime for Hitler.”

The Board attorney should as well author an astringent formula that forbids all administrators from wearing polyester since anybody’s making over $100,000 a year makes possible his or her purchasing garments of natural fibers with designer labels, In addition, the attorney should point out that implacable rules forbid an administrator’s driving a rust-bucket auto but, instead, the necessity of tooling around town a late model of the pricier type as administratormobiles for the dignity of maintaining an air of conspicuous consumption in harmony with the bloated compensation packages of the plethora of redundant ROSSAC administrative layabouts.

In addition, of course, the attorney must frame stern warnings about the consequences of administrators’ wearing too much lipstick--on the lips for women, on the collar for men.

And affixed should be as many et ceteras as members can add to the list of forbidden administrative behavior as the denizens who people the Board can come up with in the rare moments on the podium when they are not asleep.

This pamphlet project cuts two ways—or maybe dozens. We have not begun to canvas forbidden behavior for the clerical and cleaning staff. Then there are potential behavioral crimes in the lunch room personnel, not to mention the guy who cleans the gutters. He’s fair game, bien sur, for dire legal warnings of crimes committed on school grounds in the gutters.

One hopes Ms. Griffin will set a precedent for a Board member’s resolve and intelligence by slamming the New Board Member Deportment Booklet on the desk of the bureaucrat that gives it to her, stating that she doesn’t need any deportment protocols from the likes of Elia et al, that she knows how to comport herself to do the taxpayers’ business to clean up the school messes this administration has perpetrated with the present Board members’ collusion. If she doesn’t, she will be just one more potted plant.

These Board members will face the public when election time arrives. I promise to leaflet their campaign appearances with appropriate data to counter their stump lies.

School officials try to focus on positives. They say some of the excess space is being absorbed by classes for exceptional students, who need more room. And some schools have set up full classrooms for supplemental courses like art, a luxury that doesn’t exist in crowded schools, where art teachers have to push carts from room to room.

The reporter means that the administration is trying to cover up the mess with Band-Aid lies. I would like to see data that supports exceptional students’ needing more room. Never take anything the administration or Board says at face value is the rule. With this administration’s facility in lying, a Board member should check everything, demanding hard copies of studies and surveys that precede any decision. Keep this question at the ready when dealing with the administration and the Board: “Can you document that claim?”

When planning classroom wings, district officials said they look at more than individual schools. They may need space in the region, but have room to build only on certain campuses. They say it’s more cost effective to add a few extra classrooms now, even if some aren’t needed, than to come back and build them later.

Trust but verify. Ask for the stats. Demand the studies. Scrutinize the decision process and how it lines up with reality. The Board sponsors not only ill-trained C-student incompetents; but it also goes along with practiced administration liars.

“You’re much better off anticipating a scenario where you have more than enough,” Elia said.

Ms. Elia makes no sense here in this dithering. So what’s new?

That’s little comfort to William Ferreras, whose third-grade son was forced this year out of Bellamy Elementary, crowded even after receiving a new classroom wing, to help fill seats at
Woodbridge Elementary, which got one, too.

The administration answer to all their cockamamie incompetence is to sacrifice the kids. You got a problem? Throw the kids at it.

“I didn’t think it was fair,” said Ferreras, who remains skeptical that growth justified the addition of space to
Woodbridge. “If they were expanding anyway, they shouldn’t have to make these changes.”

Why, indeed didn’t the administration do the minimally sensible thing? Because its members are too dumb to pick out the best solution in a multiple-choice decision test is why. This administration would have done worse in New Orleans than even the Bush incompetents did.

Full? That was mistake

And when did this administration produce anything but mistakes? It’s the constant product: mistakes and their cover-up, causing more mistakes.

Those involved in school planning say enrollment projections are at least as much art as science.

Who said this? What are their names? The author of this moss-grown shibboleth to excuse incompetence should receive scrutiny from a Board on the qui vive.

Counting school desks is not art. It’s a mundane chore. Supplying the lack thereof and not supplying too many have to do with review, surveys, study, and checking and rechecking. Never mind these “art-science” tired metaphors to cover up incompetence.

So in addition to the projections included in the long-term construction plan sent each year to the state, the district monitors enrollment at every school.

Who does this monitoring? The janitors? The hall monitors? The grounds keepers? The lunch-room police?

The two measures haven’t always matched up.

Oh, big surprise. And what did the administration do when it became aware of the mismatches? Did it press in and find out why the disparity? Or did it take out its ukuleles and play “Won’t You Come Home, Bill Bailey”? My candidate is the latter.

The Times found large errors in the district’s internal capacity report in 2004-05, when many of the classroom additions were moving from the drawing board to construction. The mistakes made five of the schools that ended up with a significant number of unused seats look more crowded than they actually were.

My God, these people should get the sack immediately. The Board members should get a flogging at the public square on Franklin Street before their beheading in the ROSSAC parking lot.

Riverview Elementary, for example, appeared on the internal report to be filling almost all of its 665 seats at the beginning of the 2004-05 school years.

The Board should jump on such statements, given the administrative record.

But the report failed to account for the 300 seats added previously to Riverview, school officials acknowledge. The school actually was running at 68 percent of its expanded capacity even as the school district approved the addition of 10 classrooms.

Are these people on drugs?

Mistakes made Morgan Woods and Town and Country appear full. In fact, both had breathing room. Mabry Elementary and Crestwood Elementary looked hugely crowded. Correct counts would have shown their space needs weren’t so critical.

Cocaine. It has to be cocaine. Maybe gallons of cough syrup. Or doctor shopping a la Limbaugh. They have to get their supply from some place.

School officials said the mistakes weren’t big enough to make a difference. The school district had class size coming, and its long-term construction plan contained correct information.

Weren’t big enough to make a difference to whom? The brain-dead administration and Board or the ripped-off taxpayers?

Elia stands by all the wings, even the one at Riverview Elementary, which today has close to 400 excess seats.

Of course she does. She feels quite comfy, in fact, unrepentant, in the debris of the messes she has made. She’s not scared of this toothless Board. The Board is scared of her.

She said there is growth all around Riverview, which is being eyed for a boundary change to draw students from crowded Sessums Elementary.

That’s it: throw the kids into the maw of misjudgments and mistakes.

“I think that you would say right now that the decision to put a wing at Riverview was enlightened,” Elia said.

“Enlightened”? Elia delivers her own encomium as cover-up for her lack of leadership and abundant stupidity. We are talking criminal chutzpah here.

Karyn Kasnik’s two sons attend Sessums. The school’s reputation helped guide her decision to buy a home near the school in the Rivercrest subdivision.

Karyn made a big mistake. She should have hired a research firm.

Even if her children don’t have to move, she would like to be told the possible impact of a new classroom wing long in advance.

One wishes Karyn all the luck in the world.

“I think that it would make me stay involved,” Kasnik said. “So I wouldn’t be blindsided.”

Karyn should prepare for blindsiding by the administration and Board. Blindsiding parents and sacrificing children to their mistakes are both’s specialties.

Just ask the parents of the reboundary agon in Westchase what it feels like to undergo a school-administration-Board blindsiding.

- Letitia Stein can be reached at or
(813) 226-3400.

[Last modified October 29, 2006, 07:24:07]


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deepcover said...

I wonder if this is some of what Doug Erwin was trying to point out? What's it going to take for the State to step in? Maybe a link to this blog?

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