Friday, September 08, 2006

Mr. Hegarty:

3. [Provide] The name of the person(s) in the administration who "never shared [the school-generated] prediction with the community."

This is the construction in my previous email about the Board’s petitioning the county for money based on invalid projections of enrollment that you said “makes no sense.”

My four-year-old grandson would understand its meaning.

That you don’t means you must come by my office for a chit for an MRI of your brain. The X-ray guy shall send the results to me for forensic diagnostics on which parts of your grammar primer you must review.

Before I review your brain pathology, however, I can advise that you start with a chapter in any reputable grammar book called “Sentence Sense.” You must also diagram the above construction and identify all the parts of speech in Study Hall.

The reason you allege not to understand the meaning is that it points to your dereliction in providing the public accurate information. You forget that you work for us citizens, not as spin doctor to gloss over the Board’s and administration’s mistakes and chronic incompetence.

We taxpayers pay your salary, not the Board or administration hoo-hahs.

Keep that fact in mind, young man, and keep a civil tongue in your head when addressing one of your taxpayer bosses.

We will meet in the School Board parking lot for more homework assignments when I have sent your MRI to the CDC for further analysis. I hope the results are not dolorous for you. I wouldn’t trust any Florida state agencies with this task. Those issue sloppy trend prognostications based on the ephemera seeping from the bureaucratic minds that batten off taxpayers in those faux jobs.

As you were,

lee drury de cesare

Mr. Hegarty:

Thank you for your unwonted prompt reply to my public-information request.

The recent trip-up on the local School Board’s request to the county for more money via increased impact fees presents a paradigm for the slovenly administrative review the School Board and administration give its business. It echoes the Board’s flatfooted puzzlement at the crooks' running the real-estate division while the Board and Ms. Elia, then head of that department, remained in La La Land.

Both Olson and Faliero in their recent appearance at Tiger Bay’s candidate forum averred that the Board or administration could have not in a million years diagnosed the crooked maneuvers in the real-estate caper. They averred that to do so would have been a feat that escaped the abilities of human intelligence—theirs, to be sure.

But then there exists the refutation of a St. Pete Times reporter’s walking in off the street and discovering the real-estate money heist costing tax payers thousands of dollars that the on-scene somnolent school watchdogs immured in bureaucratic ennui had not noticed right under their noses.

And God forbid that the Potted-Plant board ever ask relevant questions about administration conduct in this or any enterprise in which it performs its too-frequent choreograph of tax-subsidized incompetence.

The Board and Elia don’t hire people for intelligence, training, and competence. They hire them for mindless obedience to the administration overlords, besotted with power and not about to give it up, to look the other way, to cook the books, and to deny accountability when the chickens come home to roost.

The print press, slowly sinking into the maw of history as blogs supersede them, conducts editorial candidate reviews not knowing diddly about what’s going on in the schools. With their reporters’ expose of the real-estate scam on their desks in their editorial aeries, they endorsed Ms. Olson, saying that she “keeps up with national trends in education.”

What about Ms. Olson’s keeping up with local trends, indeed, with on-site trends slap dab in her purview on the Board? What about her and La Faliero's keeping up with the trend in the school real-estate department under Ms. Elia to rip off taxpayers while the Board and the administration continue its tinsel-power extravaganza in the ROSAC redoubt and to hell with the nitty gritty of school business—criminal or otherwise?

And what about the Board and administration’s crafting a careful statistical justification for a change to justify its hitting up the county for more money for the School Board and Elia to squander in incompetent performance?

lee drury de cesare
15316 Gulf Boulevard 802
Madeira Beach, FL 33708

Ms. De Cesare,

Below are the answers to your questions.

1) The district's chief business officer, Gretchen Saunders, mentioned in a meeting with other district business officers that she thought enrollment might be lower than projected this year. In that same informal conversation the representative from Broward County guessed that Broward's enrollment might be a little above the projection. The Broward official was quite wrong. Enrollment in Broward is significantly below projections. Ms. Saunders' off-the-cuff estimate appears to have been pretty accurate.
Those informal conversations came well after the state's enrollment and budget projections had been made.

2) Projections are made by using historic and trend data in the state's computer model. It relies heavily on trends, not on recent developments. Because of the great weight given to trends, the state originally projected that Hillsborough County would grow by about 7,000 students. We disagreed and convinced the state to adjust the growth projection downward to about 5,500. It appears the numbers will come in even lower. Enrollment projections, which usually are accurate, are the result of a team effort involving the Florida Department of Education, the FTE Estimating Conference and individual school districts. I know you asked for a name but, as you see, projections are not made by one person, or even by one organization.

When the School Board asks the County to up the impact fee from $200 to $4000 (I believe those are the figure I read), I suggest that the state’s “trend” figures should get further scrutiny from an expert. Ms. Saunders' “off-the-cuff” estimates that “mention” that she guesses the figures to be inaccurate do not serve in this instance.

If the school administration doesn’t have one on its top-heavy staff--which recently added a discretionary featherbedding School Bus Tsar sinecure for Dr. Hamilton instead of paying the drivers a living wage and buy new buses-- amongst all those bloated-pay executives that throng ROSAC--then the Board needs a consultant to fill in for the lack of staff competence. The New School Bus Czar, Dr. Hamilton, has already one lined up draw pictures to tell him how to get the buses to run on time. Surely the enrollment projection is a more important matter than Dr. Hamilton’s inability to figure out bus schedules. ldd

3) The question makes no sense. I didn’t save the email. Please resend me a copy so that I can determine if I need a brain scan or if you lack the ability to thread your way through subordinate clauses in a sentence. ldd

You had one other question about who was responsible for conveying the information to the public. That's my job. When asked by reporters and others how many students we expected this year, I provided the official state projections. Those are the numbers we used in conversations with county officials and anyone else who wanted to know about our growth projections for this school year. It also has been my job to provide the actual student enrollment counts, which have come in lower than expected.

Did you not think to ask your School Board bosses any questions about their methodology at arriving at the flawed figures on the off-chance that the print press would pose more probing questions in this area?

The trends method sounds like a ho-hum dart-throwing approach. An Ouija board could have given the same prognostication.

When the school system asks for a whopping bump-up in money from the county, it ought to exercise some imagination about what data are needed to convince. If more exact analysis lies beyond Ms. Saunders’ competence of analyzing county data to test against the gauzy “trends” suggestions, why can’t she get some outside demographic help for analysis of these data in the name of accuracy?

If any local press were astute enough to ask you that question, wouldn’t you have to have admitted that the Board did not require more statistical accuracy for its money petition to the county and that the School Board and administration counted on the County’s being patsies because of the political-propaganda poison of the its denying the children classrooms and blah, blah, blah? ldd

Stephen Hegarty
Office of Communications
School District of Hillsborough County
901 East Kennedy Boulevard
Tampa, Fl. 33602-3507
office: 813-272-4060
fax: 813-272-4510

From: Stephen Hegarty []
Sent: Wednesday, September 06, 2006 7:42 PM
Cc: Joan Gentry
Subject: School District Response

From: Stephen Hegarty []
Sent: Wednesday, September 06, 2006 7:42 PM
Cc: Joan Gentry
Subject: School District Response

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Who's responsible for the monkey biz? Who made these numbers up? Who hid them?

Lee De Cesare []
Sent: Wednesday, September 06, 2006 7:50 AM

9/6/06 Tampa Tribune
The district sold the need for increasing the school impact fee on projections that enrollment was growing by about 6,000 students a year, requiring five new schools a year to keep up. Just three days after the commission's vote, a Hillsborough schools official told a state official that significantly fewer students were expected this year - a prediction never shared with the commission or the community. And on the first day of school, it became clear this year's enrollment projections were off. Now it appears enrollment growth might be only one-third of what was projected.

Scott, the swing vote in July, is encouraging the district to come back before the commission, take its lumps on the flawed projection and refine its numbers. District officials should heed that request because they currently have a credibility issue when it comes to projections.

The public and its elected officials need accurate information to make decisions regarding taxes and fees. If the process of projecting enrollment is flawed, as it appears to be, it should be refined to prevent more surprises.

Mr. Hegarty:

I ask for the public information of 1. the name of the "Hillsborough schools official [who] told a state official that significantly fewer students were expected this year---a prediction never shared with the commission or the community."

2. The name of the administrators responsible for making the projection.

3. The name of the person(s) in the administration who "never shared [the school-generated] prediction with the community."

I cannot imagine why the Tribune reporter didn't elicit this information in the name of the public's right to know with what competence the administration and School Board made this enrollment projection and with what degree of candor it published this public information. I also want to know which person(s) was responsible for conveying these data to the community.
Was your office responsible for conveying this information to the community, sir?

This is public information. Please don't delay sending it and make me ask for the information repeatedly.

lee drury de cesare
15316 Gulf Boulevard 802
Madeira Beach, FL 33708

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Congressman Davis:

Below follows an email to Mr. Crist protesting his bad grammar and punctuation when he was Commissioner of Education.

The barbarism of the Education Commissioner's abusing the English language in a press release savaging gays, academic freedom, and the First Amendment offended me then and offends me now.

People who can't write Basic English and punctuate it correctly following the rules they should have learned in the 9th grade should have the humility to admit themselves unfit for public office.

They especially should not head the schools and contaminate the education of the young as is the present case in the Hillsborough County school system, in which Superintendent Elia continues the tradition of illiteracy of Hillsborough County school superintendents perfected by her predecessor, Dr. Earl the Pearl Lennard.
Dr. Lennard, after a career in education beginning in a vo-tech classroom and continued to his retirement on an opulent golden parachute of tax money awarded him by a Board that supports illiteracy in superintendents couldn't punctuate.

Ms. Elia, also plucked from the mediocrity of the in-house candidates that always get the superintendent job despite the pretense of a "nation-wide" search costing the taxpayers $35,000, continues to mispunctuate sentences on the schools' Web pages with the Board's blessing. Students are not supposed to graduate from high school making such basic errors, but the Board gave La Elia a big raise the other day. They would have probably added her own nuclear deterrent if she could punctuate.

The highest-level administrators in Ms. Elia's administration practice barbarous illiteracy. Dr. Jim Hamilton, her Edgar Bergan in this administration, does not know the difference between the homophones "your" and "you're."

When you are governor, I expect you to confirm your stated dedication to education by passing a state law identical to that in effect in Massachusetts, the Number One state in education in the nation--as compared to Florida's 29th. That law says that school administrators must pass the language exams teachers must pass to get a job.

Those would have weeded out Mr. Lennard and Ms. Elia and would weed out the illiterate administrator candidates in Florida as it does in Massachusetts.

Meanwhile, you should ask Mr. Crist in the general election to meet you at the OK Grammar Corral to shoot it out with commas, semicolons, and apostrophes. I pray that as the Democratic candidate, you can punctuate while shooting straight, sir.

lee drury de cesare
15316 Gulf Boulevard 802
Madeira Beach, FL 33708

Remedial English 101

By Lee De Cesare Dear Commissioner Christ:

I have reviewed your press release below on the play Corpus Christi. You condemn it as an insult to Christianity because it portrays Christ as gay.

You condemn the university that allowed its performance. You condemn the Palm Beach Post for praising the performance. You condemn academic freedom as a license for arrogant professors to pursue vulgar ideas on campuses offensive, if not to the entire community, at least to sensitive, "thinking" persons such as you.

I do not challenge your magisterial mastery of the ethical limits for dramaturgy, the abuses of academic freedom as practiced by arrogant Florida professors, or the First Amendment excesses of the Palm Beach Post in printing its opinion.

Your reputation in pre-emptive homophobia is impeccable and appears intact in this criticism of the play's premise of Christ as gay. The gay community of Florida and even many in its straight community are well aware of the implications of this homophobic hostility on your part.

What I do challenge, sir, is your grammar and punctuation. This press release shows that you need Remedial English 101.
You will find my interpolated corrections in red--the signature color of English professors who abuse academic freedom daily in Florida institutions of higher learning while flagging errors in crimson on student essays.

I apply the grade standards that I used for twenty-eight years for Freshman 101 essays: 50 percent for grammar and punctuation and 50 percent for grammar and punctuation.

I regret to report that you have five grammar felonies in this essay: three fragments, one subject-verb agreement error, and one spelling error.

I understand that the first press release misspelled "Taliban" but corrected it in subsequent press releases when someone from the teachers’ union pointed out the error. You get docked for that misspelling nonetheless; this essay is not a make-up essay. These serious errors count five points each: 25 points off. You have fifteen less serious errors in italics, comma use, capitalization, and pronoun-antecedent agreement. These cost you two points each: 30 points.

The 25 points plus the 30 points give you a dismal 55 minus points for grammar and punctuation. Since this error score totals more than the 50 points possible, you earn a zero for grammar and punctuation. I don't count more off than 50 points in this area; to do so would be like shooting somebody and then going over and kicking the body.
The content part of your grade involves the essay's intelligence, originality, organization, and style.

You must trust your teacher in this area. I would be glad to send you my transcripts and academic honors if you doubt my competence. I grade your essay a C for content: you earn 35 points out of a possible 50.
If we add your grade of zero in grammar and punctuation to the 35 you earn in content, your score for this essay is 35.

This grade flunks you.

My advice is to repeat it to improve your basic writing skills to a level that we citizens in Florida have a right to expect from Education Commissioner Charlie Christ.
You say at the end of your press release that the legislature has the "ability to take almost any action without fear of limitation or consequence."

I wonder if this unbridled power makes possible this body’s passing corrective legislation that your press release demonstrates is urgent: a law making obligatory education commissioners’ passing a basic grammar and punctuation skills test as the price for being sworn into office.

With all due respect,

Lee Drury De Cesare

Original Message -----
From: Higgins, Deborah To: 'lee' Sent: Monday, May 07, 2001 1:09 PM Subject: RE: Here is the statement you requested. April 12, 2001

Here is the statement you requested.

April 12, 2001
Remedial English 101

Original Message -----
From: Higgins, Deborah
To: 'lee'
Sent: Monday, May 07, 2001 1:09 PM
Subject: RE:
-----Original Message-----
From: lee []
Sent: Sunday, May 06, 2001 8:45 PM


Please email me the press statement that Commissioner Crist made on "Corpus Christi."

Thank you.

Lee De Cesare

Here is the statement you requested.

April 12, 2001

Desecration 101

Charlie Crist

Dear Editor:

A few weeks ago the world watched in stunned disbelief as Afghanistan’s extremist Taliban (I understand that your first press release misspelled this word and that you corrected it after it earned a "sic" from literate person.) government ordered and then carried out the destruction of two ancient Buddhist statues that stood at the crossroads of the Great Silk Route. To all civilized cultures, it seemed an act of unfathomable callousness, wiping away in an instant irreplaceable artifacts that had stood for more than 1700 years.

To Buddhists the act had an added dimension of cruelty, for it represented (The comma after "cruelty" is redundant; "for" is not a coordinating conjunction in this sentence but a subordinating conjunction equivalent to "because" and introduces a dependent adverbial clause.) not just the destruction of objects but the desecration (You have an incomplete correlative in this phrase. It should read "not just [equivalent to "only"] the destruction of images but also the desecration....") of images held sacred by that religion. Appropriately, the media voiced its ("Media" is the plural of "medium"; your pronoun should be "their" to agree with its antecedent.) outrage at a governmental act so profoundly insensitive to the religious beliefs of others that it took on the flavor of a violent personal assault.

You can imagine my confusion, then, when a few weeks later a Palm Beach Post (italics for title of a newspaper) staff writer praised Florida Atlantic University for funding an event that desecrates the accepted image of Jesus Christ. FAU sponsored a play called "Corpus Christi" in which (I infer this play to be more than one act; multiple-act plays get italics, not quotation marks.) Jesus is depicted as a homosexual who surrounds himself with a cast of lecherous and profane disciples.

As with the destruction of the great stone statues, the sponsorship by government of this enormously disrespectful act should appall any thinking person who honors the religious beliefs of others. (Logic: Let me get this straight: you compare the destruction of the ancient Buddhas in Afghanistan to a little play presented by students in Florida?)For Christians, it is a personal attack, (Superfluous comma: the present participial phrase is restrictive: it modifies the general noun preceding it, "attack.”)defiling the accepted image of the Son of God.

How could administrators at FAU have shown such poor judgment in spending taxpayers’ money for this purpose? Reflexively, they cite "academic freedom" as the rationale. Of course (A comma should follow this transitional "of course," a sentence modifier.)"academic freedom" is the final refuge in which professors hide when confronted with the absurdity and arrogance of their decisions. It is a wasteland entirely unmoored from standards, (Superfluous comma: the "where" clause is a restrictive adjectival clause modifying the general noun "standards.”) where any activity can be justified if it exceeds our "comfort level" by "challenging" our preconceptions.
Unfortunately, "Corpus Christi" (Use italics, not quotation marks for a play of more than one act.) does not illuminate our understanding of divinity. Stripped of its shock value, it is simply a sophomoric treatment of the Crucifixion. And in the end, all it "challenges" is this: Our (Don’t capitalize the first word after a colon unless it begins a sentence.)"comfort level" in the leadership of FAU.

Perhaps these leaders should have considered who would not sponsor the play before they decided to enfold it in the cloak of academic freedom.

First, no private organization in Florida was willing to pay to have the play presented to an audience. Why? Because the play is so ferociously unappealing that it would never turn a profit. (Treating an adverbial dependent clause as a sentence is a fragment, a grammar felony.) Surely, in spending taxpayers’ money, universities have some duty to reach the broadest possible audience with information.

Second, no newspaper would bring the play to the masses by printing its script because the language is so foul. If the Palm Beach Post (Italicize the name of a newspaper.) thinks "Corpus Christi"(Use italics for a play of more than one act.) shows great literary merit, why doesn’t it print the text for its readers? Because if it did, it would lose part of its readership, and therefore its revenue. (This is your second dependent adverbial clause treated as a sentence. You have a problem recognizing a sentence.) Instead, the newspaper encourages the university to do it. (Vague pronoun reference: you have no antecedent noun for "it" to point back to in the preceding clause.) With your money. (This is a third fragment: a prepositional phrase treated as a sentence.)

If this bit of hypocrisy were not enough, the Palm Beach Post (Use italics: title of a newspaper.) then rails against the Florida Legislature for threatening to withhold money from FAU in response to "Corpus Christi."(Use italics.) Apparently the newspaper hasn’t heard of "legislative prerogative." It’s a phrase that acknowledges the Legislature’s (No matter how important you consider the legislature of this state to be, it does not merit a capital in Standard English.) ability to take almost any action without fear of limitation or consequence. In that sense, it’s a lot like academic freedom.

Maybe FAU had a point after all.


Charlie Crist
Florida Education Commissioner
The Capitol
Tallahassee, FL 32399
(850) 488-9968