Saturday, April 07, 2007

Update on the School Board in Its Relationship with Teachers

From: lee decesare []
Sent: Saturday, April 07, 2007 1:42 PM
To: Candy Olson (; edgecomb (; faliero (; Frank Sanchez (; Jack Lamb (; (maryellen.elia@sdhc.k12.fl.)
Cc:; Bruce Burnham;; Edith A Tobul (; Frank Sanchez (; (; Margie (; montolino (; Tiger Bay Club of Tampa (; Warren Rachels (; ''

Board Meeting April 10th 6pm: Teachers rally against teaching the extra class La Elia tried to bulldoze past the Board under the radar. The superintendent wants teachers to solve her budget problem.

La Elia’s personal budget has no problems: she received a whopping bonus piled atop the bloated, unearned $262,000-plus-perquisites the Board awarded her from the bottomless tax kitty. Now comes word that she received another whopping bonus from improvements in student performance (see Marilyn-Brown-Tribune article below).

Logic demands this answer: Why does Elia, who wants to make teachers’ lives tougher, get the bonus that teachers worked to produce?


We track down the origin of this cockamamie award through the Sunshine Law:

lee decesare []

'Linda Cobbe'

''; '';;; Edgecomb (; Faliero (; Frank Sanchez (; Jack Lamb (; Margie (; Montolino (; Susan Valdes (; Tiger Bay Club of Tampa (; Warren Rachels (; April Griffin (

Bruce Burnham; Candy Olson (; Edith A Tobul (; (; Stein (; Ma (

FW: Elia article Public information request

Ms.Cobbe;: Please send me the Board notes of

the School Board meeting at which the plan

originated to award the superintendent bonuses for students' improvement.

I want to review the thinking that went into

giving an already overpaid superintendent even more money that should go to teachers since

they caused the student achievement, not the


If Ms. Elia were interested in academic

achievement, she would learn to punctuate.

Ms. Elia is responsible not for student

achievement but for harassing teachers by

trying to load another class onto them while

she reaps monetary bonuses for their work.

This situation is sicko.

lee drury de cesare

From: Linda Cobbe []
Sent: Friday, April 06, 2007 1:43 PM
To: lee decesare
Subject: Re: FW: Elia article Public information request

The plan originated when Earl Lennard was superintendent. The board increased the criteria when MaryEllen's contract was approved. Which one do you want?

Linda Cobbe
External Communications
Office of Communications
Hillsborough County Public Schools
E. Kennedy Blvd.
Tampa, FL 33602

813-272-4510 FAX

Fast response from Ms. Cobbe: she’s a professional who does her job. She can be snippy, but she is competent. Competence is in short supply at ROSSAC. I can deal with snippy, but I can’t stand incompetence in overpaid bureaucrats.

I will circulate the rip-off scheme of teachers when I receive it from Cobbe. It should make Kafkaesque reading. It will illustrate what can happen in the incestuous relationship with Board and administration when teachers don’t monitor the proceedings or have any say so in the running of the schools of which teachers and their students are the heart.

I believe Dr. Lamb and Ms. Kurdell were in office when Dr. Earl the Pearl Lennard hatched and the Board rubberstamped this scheme to pilfer teacher-produced money and siphon it to the superintendent.

There exists a tradition of at least one female Board member’s being in love with the superintendent. Ms. Kurdell was besotted with Dr. Lennard. I once asked La Kurdell a question about Dr. Lennard’s illiteracy at a state political meeting that I attended with my then-mayor-of-our-little-beach-town husband. Ms. Kurdell represented the schools on the dais. I have since learned of illiteracy’s being a bona fide occupational qualification for a Hillsborough County superintendent.

La Kurdell gushed about how sweet Dr. Lennard was and didn’t consider his marginal literacy a damper on his superintendent sex appeal. Dr. Lennard is too desiccated to appeal to most women, I judge, but there’s no accounting for taste or the mythic allure of comma-challenged male superintendents for female Board dingdongs.

There flourish some bizarre erotic tastes in the ROSSAC environs, it seems. Dr. Hamilton used to be the in-house Romeo Supremo, about whom gossip filled ROSSAC nooks, crannies, powder rooms, and mop closets, but he has gone to pot exacerbated by lumbago and no longer ranks winsome enough for the Romeo job.

Note how Ms. Cobbe calls the superintendent “Mary Ellen” in cozy familiarity: not professional. One infers it’s perpetual Old Home Week at ROSSAC. It’s “Mary Ellen,” “Jack,” “Jennifer,” “Susan,” “Carol,” “Candy,” “April,” “Dorthea,” “MaryEllen” all sung out in the corridors and offices with a you’ve-done-a-heck-of-a-job-Brownie ebullience. The Board has melded with the administration into a tribal cluster with an it’s-us-against-them organic cohesion of we-know-everything-while-teachers-and-the-great- unwashed-masses-of-voters-know-nothing-and-shouldn’t-bother-us- Olympians the reigning ethos.

This hermetically sealed Board-administration pod explains why the Board chair gavel outsiders down after three minutes at the podium mike with name-that-tune-flashing lights to rattle the speaker and signify cut-off time.

The last time I spoke my three minutes, Dr. Lamb, chair of the Board Star Chamber, snarled when teacher applause erupted from the back of the auditorium, where these teacher intruders on the Board domain clustered, “You get that interruption deducted from your time,” La Lamb said out of the corner of his mouth.

I didn’t appeal from the decision of this hostile chair so that Mr. Gonzalez, Board attorney, would have to cite Robert Rules chapter and book for this sneer of The Lambkin chair at an interloper. I didn’t want to cut into my brief time limit, granted by the Board in surly concession to its pro forma duty to hear from the public on school business.

But I got the message that Chair and the Board did not want me there.

Had one member been interested in my comments or those of teachers and students who appeared to oppose loading a class onto teachers, that Board member could have admonished Dr. Lamb to extend time limits. Not one did.

Board rules allow time latitude. But the Board doesn’t invoke it because its members despise public input as intrusion on their time. This hostility encompasses comment by teachers and other school personnel except the administrative priesthood that faces the Board at meetings in the row of ROSSAC hallelujah chorus that separates the Board from the audience. This group’s comments are fulsome, tedious, and uninterrupted by time limits. The conversation is entre nous amongst the cast of ROSSAC players and excludes all but the ROSSAC denizens. The purpose of the audience is to swell a progress and act background for dais and claque grandeur.

Board rules made possible waiving the time cut-off rule accompanied by name-that-tune podium flashing lights if members had so chosen when enraged teachers appeared the first time to protest the extra class as reported by Tribune Brown. But the Board shut them up with gavel and flashing lights after three minutes of their aborted pleas. The truth is that the Board didn’t want to hear from these teachers.

Board and administrators hole up in ROSSAC and shut out the uninitiated from their sealed knowledge pod. That’s how it’s always been; that’s the way the administration and Board want to keep it.

One awaits a new breed of Board member with professional deportment whose behavior shows that the Board knows its members rank Elia et al’s bosses, not the reverse. This new breed of Board member will be wise enough to consult the rest of the school system, especially teachers, and the public instead of roosting in the impregnable ROSSAC redoubt.

From: []
Sent: Tuesday, April 03, 2007 6:27 PM
Subject: Elia article

Student Gains Lift School Chief's Pay

By MARILYN BROWN The Tampa Tribune

Published: Apr 3, 2007

TAMPA - The Hillsborough County schools superintendent's annual raise used to be simple: When teachers got a 5 percent raise, so did the superintendent.

A few years ago, the school board decided the superintendent's contract should include bonuses based mainly on student achievement.

This year, that performance pay is helping Superintendent MaryEllen Elia earn $284,744, including $48,240 added to her base of $236,504. That's well above what superintendents in Broward County and also New York and Chicago earn.

Three measures generated the most money of 18 of Elia's bonus goals:

• The state awarded 89 Hillsborough district schools A grades.

• Fifty-nine schools received passing marks on a national report card.

• The school district saw a 17 percent increase in seventh-graders participating in a program to identify academic talent.

Percentage increases for black and Hispanic student performance and increases in Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate participation and exam results are also factors.

"It's dependent on our performance - that's how it should be," Elia said.

"We're doing it for the students, we're doing it for the teachers and we're doing it for administrators. It's an appropriate way to evaluate," she said.

As for next year, Elia said she is confident schools will continue to improve.

"I know how hard people have worked in this district," she said.

Two new categories - FCAT science and improvement in the lowest fourth of students in math - will be added to the state's school grading formula.

Performance pay for teachers and administrators has emerged in some states in recent years, although it remains controversial among teachers.

Most Florida School Chiefs Elected

Individual superintendent contracts vary greatly in Florida's 67 districts, but most don't include performance pay, said Joy Frank, legislative liaison for the Florida Association of District School Superintendents.

"We're different from most states because we have both elected and appointed superintendents," Frank said.

Elia is appointed by the Hillsborough County School Board, but most Florida superintendents are elected and fall under state guidelines for pay.

A comparison of Elia's salary to the nation's other largest school districts shows that only those in Florida and Texas include performance pay.

Salaries Span Wide Range

Superintendent salaries span a broad range.

The New York chancellor of education, for example, answers directly to the mayor and oversees the education of nearly 1.1 million students - the largest school district in the nation.

He is paid $250,000 with no incentive bonuses.

The superintendent in Miami-Dade County, the nation's fourth-largest district with about 350,000 students, will make $315,000 in base pay this year plus up to $65,000 in performance incentive pay.

Superintendents also negotiate for travel allotments that may include cars, retirement and insurance contributions and, in some cases, housing allotments.

Florida superintendents' average base salaries this year are $133,432, according to the state Department of Education.

They range from $86,268 in Liberty County with just 1,400 students to $315,000 in Miami-Dade.

Lennard Earned $253,544

Former Superintendent Earl Lennard earned $253,544 in 2005, the year in which he retired.

That amount included $28,450 in bonuses, mainly for the number of schools graded A by the state and increases in minority student achievement.

When Elia was hired to replace him, her base salary was $10,000 less than his.

Reporter Marilyn Brown can be

Find this article at:

Teacher Comment

Unit allocations are taking place in the high schools right now, and Armwood lost 18 units. If you will do some checking, you will find that this is the result of the 6/7 plan, while Ms. Elia reaps a bonus of more than the average pay for a teacher in the district. The bean counters have taken over and will continue to as long as she is at the helm

Here's a cynical Gloss on the level of teachers' courage that came from a teacher. I hope this fellow is wrong.

I bet the board will not do this [give teachers a slot on the Board agenda], b/c they will be scared teachers will come in hordes to complain about every little thing, and they will never get to their meeting agenda and have to stay in the meeting till
4am in the morning. The board's first priority at their board meetings is to get home to watch their TV shows as soon as possible, I bet.

I actually think once the extra teaching time thing is official and put in place, teachers will fade back into the woodwork and no longer attend board meetings. Even with the "teachers first" policy at board meetings, teachers will be too scared to speak out except on issues like the 300 minutes of teaching that has angered so many.

But look at how few teachers are even angry about that. There are enough to march up and down Kennedy like the gay pride protest that happened in summer 2005, but do you see them marching?

I am going to the next board meeting to support these high school teachers, but I have a feeling it is a done deal, and these teachers will go back to their schools and do the extra time and we won't hear from them again once it goes into effect. I hope I am wrong, but that is what I fear.


Here follows an email from a teacher who won’t protest the extra class. Somebody identified this teacher as Plant’s.

My children went to Plant, the ethos of which was such that two of my daughters worried about getting the latest designer jeans that the in-crowd wore so as not to be sneered at instead of worrying about getting their grades up so that they could go to a good college.

His classmates deemed as nerd my son. He played in the band and not on the football team. He couldn’t get a date but coached several Beach Park neighbors’ sons to pass physics. He is now a NASA engineer, the career path of physics-savvy nerds who can’t get dates at Plant.

A third daughter with feminist values, however, called the Plant Dancerettes “The Danceroos.” Her sisters accused her of not understanding the social metaphysics of designer jeans.


Behold this rebuke from Plant instructress La Ginger Goepper. It supports, alas, what the above cynical fellow says about teachers’ energy in protesting wrongs against them. La Ginger appears to suffer from Stockholm Syndrome, not from fear of the administration’s retaliation since her allegiance to it is pristine. In fact, expect to see Ginger or her ilk occupy the next $100,000 administrative featherbedding sinecure at ROSSAC:

From: Ginger Goepper []
Friday, March 30, 2007 1:37 PM

To: lee decesare
Subject: Re: FW: The teacher gap: prepare now - The Boston Globe

"lee decesare" <> on Friday, March 30, 2007 at 1:04 PM -0500 wrote:
La Superintendent Elia does not yet know where to put a comma and writes with the rhetorical lack of élan of a third-grader.

Please stop harassing this lady. We do not need your propaganda.

Although La Ginger appears unwilling to learn new information, she should use a comma, not a colon, (I got these reversed) after “Madam” since she doesn’t know me.

That “madam” makes me sound like the CEO of a brothel, a colorful career which I have not yet pursued. I have thus far been only a registered nurse and a college professor. After weaning myself from teacher blogs, I may consider this ancient profession.

One hopes that the snappy Ms. Ginger is a hygiene instructor, not an English, teacher.


In contrast, here’s a teacher e-mail that expresses what I hope is the dominant teacher spirit; this teacher has resisted Stockholming by the administration and is ready to continue to oppose Elia’s disrespectful loading of a new burden on her without consultation and without pay:

Dear Lee: You gave us all the enCOURAGEment we desperately needed at the last Board meeting.

Thank you for speaking out for us! I will write to the Board members and get others to do so to push for that time slot at the beginning of the meetings for teachers. That was an inspired idea! What a concept!
Listening to teachers!

My friend who taught kindergarten for 31 years in another county in
Florida has a memorable line: "The only people they (officials & administrators from DOE to District to school site) treat worse than Dear Lee: You gave us all the enCOURAGEment we desperately needed at the last Board meeting.

Thank you for speaking out for us! I will write to the Board members and get others to do so to push for that time slot at the beginning of the meetings for teachers. That was an inspired idea! What a concept!
Listening to teachers!

My friend who taught kindergarten for 31 years in another county in
Florida has a memorable line: "The only people they (officials & administrators from DOE to District to school site) treat worse than students are teachers.

Here follows apocryphal state-wide gossip that floated over the transom from the outback fens and bogs:

A Hillsborough County teacher is looking for a job in Broward County. One of the principals said to her that Hillsborough County is a laughing stock across the state because its superintendent has no Ph.D. (The principal had one and might have been preening, but be that as it may.)

That lack of Ph.D. in Hillsborough’s school superintendent is the Board's doing. Its members lowered the requirement from doctorate to coincide with Elia's credentials manqué. The Board had set a precedent for tailoring credentials to the inside pre-chosen candidate by requiring vo-tech bona fides of candidates, exotic to the academic world, for the superintendent’s faux search when local Dr. Lennard slid into place as the home-team guy.

Le Lennard rose from bucolic hinterland of the county and for years occupied the vo-tech bowels of ROSSAC with three or four subordinates to boss as his administrative-experience base.

Lennard’s vo-tech tailored ad was probably the first time in the history of academic advertising for a superintendent job when startled applicants encountered a vo-tech requirement. Vo tech does not rank a high priority in academic ranks.

One wonders how in the world the Board contorted Earl the Pearl’s risible Vo-tech-basement administrative experience into adequate for the superintendent pinnacle. Its members probably did so with the same mental gyrations which later accompanied sanctifying La Elia’s building-boss experience as adequate for superintendent sinecure. That would be the buildings-boss job in which she later claimed to be unaware of skullduggery going on under her nose in the sustained building-department-real-estate scamming. A SP Times reporter walked in off the street and spotted the criminality which went on during Ms. Elia’s oblivious tenure and wrote a series on it. So much for Ms. Elia’s powers of observation.

Bewildered Lennard-era applicants should have known that a vo-tech requirement in the ad for the job signaled an already-chosen candidate who emerged from the on-site ROSSAC vo-tech basement. It does not augment the Board’s perspicacity that Earl the Pearl Lennard was one of most profoundly mediocre men in a county infested with the breed.

Opposition academic analysis pertains: Its superintendent choices show that the Board cares as little about education as does the administration.

The Board members want to keep good ol' boys and girls in the superintendent slot so that hanging on to their incumbency is easier. They fear a talented, independent outsider superintendent who may be serious about fostering excellence in education and who might shake them up with progressive programs after they have settled down to a regimen of picking which color the cupcakes should be at the next Board tea party. Elia’s choice shows that the Board members rank timid guardians of education excellence at best when they select a mediocre in-house superintendent over better outside candidates.

It’s a mistake to romanticize the Board. One must keep in mind that the School Board is a gaggle of politicians, not humanitarians in love with learning. Review the last time you heard a Board member quote Plato or even Imus in dreary Board disquisitions in which, eyes heavenward, Board members animadvert on cupcake colors or The Meaning of Life.

If the Board members were fans of excellence in education as they profess to be, why would they have overlooked Elia's thin and undistinguished resume? Her hiring was a set-up implemented by the inside power thugs lusting after the tax kitty to give themselves bloated salaries and pass around pricey contracts. These power thugs steered the Board's malleable members to pick Elia. They succumbed to flattery, cajolery, and outright lies and obediently fingered Elia for the prize.

The imposition on the school family and taxpayers of this outrage is faite accompli, so the county is stuck with Elia and her brutal administrative feints. But the Board must rein La Elia in when she tries to mistreat teachers as she has with the extra-class outrage. The Board picked her. The Board must keep her in check.

If the state-school-system people laugh at Hillsborough County’s superintendent’s feeble credentials, both Ms. Elia and the Board should share the ridicule in equal measure.

The slap in the face to taxpayers that rankles is that the Board handed over $30,000 and $35,000 of tax money respectively in faux Lennard-Elia “nation-wide” searches to ratify its spurious claim to be an “equal-opportunity employer.” When it comes to tax money, it's easy come, easy go with the School Board, and ad persiflage is a tool of the business of the education hustle.

That ad money paid for Board flimflamming of taxpayers served as cover-up to make the poor chumps believe that the Board was indeed conducting "nation-wide searches" for the best candidate for superintendent to reign over the educational wellbeing of their children. That’s wicked abuse of taxpayers and the children.

As social philosophes would say in my home state, Georgia, “They flew all around the flowers and lit on a turd.” For the linguistically prissy: “turd” comes from Middle English “tord.” It appears in Chaucer. That’s as classy an etymology as one gets. So let’s hear no linguistically unsophisticateds’ bemoaning the vulgarity of “turd.”

Had you ventured into the Public Affairs Office, as I did, to read the finalists’ resumes, what would have struck you was that Elia ranks a bantam-weight for whom the use of the comma remains a mystery. And, yes, there were other candidates who could write literate English, who had rich experience records, and even had an academic publishing record. The only record of publication Ms. Elia has is a string of illiterate memos.

In choosing the last two superintendents, has the Board demonstrated honest, fiscally prudent behavior? No. Will the Board continue this corrupt practice? Yes, it will--unless the public, newspaper reporters, and editorials scrutinize Board members to the point that they risk their incumbency if they don’t mend their ways.

Teachers could knock the socks off these Board enemies of education by demanding a Board-agenda slot to make their views known to the Board and to the public. With their own Board slot, teachers could then testify to their concerns and let the chips fall where they may. Teachers could show up at Board meetings sure of a hearing to demand such things as teachers’ being on the screening committee for a superintendent and pushing for the best candidate instead of the inside hack.

I tried to interest the Board’s best-looking but most scatterbrained member, Jennifer Faliero, in requiring candidates’ terminal theses for interested people to judge candidates’ level of intelligence and literacy. Dr. Johnson was right when he said, “Let the man [and woman] speak so that we may know his mind.”

Ms. Falliero professed not to see a connection between a candidate’s writing ability and her/his suitability for superintendent over a school system the goal of which is to ensure literacy in students.

Ms. Faliero’s mental energies go rather to figuring out ways to prevent a whiff of solid sex education from contaminating schools. Sex-information classes lie athwart her anti-science, right-wing convictions that children should know nothing accurate about sex. La Faliera and her know-nothing ilk don’t want to modify the behavior of copulating students in backseats of cars in school parking lots because sex education will teach them that such behavior leads to pregnancies. Ms. Faliera abhors giving students data on birth control. She wants to keep status quo to give her a subject to natter about in Board meetings for Jesus points in her resume.

La Faliero also doesn’t want students to know about gays because in Ms. Faliero’s cosmogony, gays cause all of the evils that afflict Planet Earth, right down to Third-World famine, hoof-and-mouth disease, and chronic cholelithiasis.

Board members mouth platitudes of respect for teachers but do nothing to confirm this respect. That they would consider allowing Elia to solve her budget problem--one she has known about for time sufficient to have planned for it—by unloading it on teachers' shoulders and ramming it past the Board while its members dithered shows how little they respect teachers.

The Board as well as the administration counts on the somnolence and fear of teachers to make them act as if they were members of a Gulag Archipelago and not members of the freest country in the world. Professional Standards’ Lucco Brazzi Kipley backs up these fears for La Elia and her ROSSAC myrmidons.

If the Board valued the teachers in deed as well as word, it would carve for them a permanent place out of the Board agenda every month. It would issue them invitations to come and tell the Board teachers’ views of the system. It would tell Elia and her henchpeople not to dream of setting up teachers for cooked-up Professional Standards referrals and other forms of retaliation to frighten them about losing their jobs. The Board would tell its lawyer to accept teacher complaints of retaliation for his review and action.

But teachers can't sit like deer in headlights. They must speak up now or hold their peace, work the extra class, and endure other Elia-generated outrages to their professionalism and dignity. The success of that extra-class imposition will embolden Elia to up the ante in her $262,000-plus- perquisites sinecure and purloined student-improvement grab of their earnings. If she succeeds in piling another class sans pay on them, this victory will prompt her to treat teachers with even more contempt.

For teachers as for everyone else, you must rescue yourself with your courage and resistance to tyranny. Everyone must breathe on his or her own.


To Media Specialist Bart Birdsall:

Congratulations on the press attention to your winning the thousand-dollar grant for books for the Greco library. You sound involved and knowledgeable, Bart. That is the kind of media specialist the School Board should recognize, not allow Elia and Kipley to cook up a Professional-Standards case against because you protested from your home email against the shut down of the county library to gays by its gay collaborator director.

Ms. Elia brings a set of retrograde, unsophisticated values to the school system. She, for example, flip-flopped on the Muslim religious holiday. She scrambled school boundaries without enlisting the parents in the decision but, instead, according to several parents, lied to them and misreported the community meetings to discourage attendance that the community was supposed to have to review the decision. She supported as well parental notification on clubs that students opposed and reversed the first committee's decision not to notify.

If a bigot pops up and says "no," Ms. Elia obeys, and the Board has to rescue her from the consequences of her bad decision.

The Elia management style is irrational. She causes problems like the current teacher-extra-class fiasco and dumps them on the Board's lap. That's not good executive leadership. Tom was in the busies world many years, and he taught me what good leadership was by discussing his company's executive decisions. A good executive anticipates a problem, plans for it, makes a decision, and stands his or her ground based on the soundness of the decision.

A good executive doesn't make every Board meeting a crisis by dumping his or her ill-conceived decisions on the Board for its members to iron out and quell outbreaks of public wrath.


Comment from system teacher:

Well now it is coming to fruition....we have lost about 10% of our faculty for next year and after doing some investigations I have found that we are about average with that figure. This is a direct result of the 6/7 plan, nothing else. We are told there is a teacher shortage, and that the district can barely fill the positions needed even with the 6/7, but don't believe it. And don't believe you will have no more than 25 students in your classes next year, either. We have been duped, exploited and totally disrespected by the current district leadership. Our last chance to show the school board our dissatisfaction with this unprecedented abuse of secondary teachers is Tuesday, April 10 at the School Board meeting. We need as many people as we can to show solidarity. To not speak out is to consent.

This “We Deliver” logo advertises Elia’s gimcrack lure of a cold cash consolation prize to divert members of the school family’s attention and make these unfortunates forget their misery under her superintendentship. I found out via a publisher that Ms. Elia planned to get the school Foundation to fund her scheme. I wrote the Foundation that if it funded the Elia scheme that it could count on me to inform every national CEO of all the foundations’ representatives. That mark on the local representative’s resumes would not be career-enhancing. I infer Elia will have to scramble for the We-Deliver hush money elsewhere.

This Crackerjack prize ranks diction-impaired. “Miracles” should read “hokum.”

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