Sunday, July 29, 2007

Susan, Where were board members when this Wimauma meeting described below occurred with immigrant parents of children to be bused in a trial run of this cruel maneuver?

Where was the school superintendent? She must have been gadding about on the taxpayers’ dime attending one of those school-
bureaucracy Cracker Jack prize hoedowns that local, state, and national school bureaucracies give each other to paper over how badly they manage schools.

I believe Ms. Elia has received a half dozen School Bureaucracy Cracker Jack Nobel Laureates in the last three months alone.

But the big question is this: Where, Susan, were you when this meeting of immigrant Hispanic parents took place? This is your constituency. Didn’t you run as a Hispanic who would look out for Hispanic children?

Or have you decided to become an honorary Anglo potted plant to blend in with the rest of the board?

The Tribune via an Elia leak jumped on you for spending the most money of any on the board to get your certification. I thought you were right to get that credentialing.

But now I wonder if the syllabus featured any of the ethics seminars you needed such as “If You Run as a Hispanic, Remember That If You Get Elected”;or “If You Are the Sole Hispanic Board Member, Don’t Let the Administration Jump on the Immigrant Hispanic Children First as the Guinea Pigs for No Buses and Even Five-year-olds Walking Two Miles on No Sidewalks on Terrain by Roadsides Strewn with with Broken Beer Bottles with Semis Roaring by, Only One Crosswalk,
and Pedophiles Lurking in the Tall Grass.”

During Board Meetings I have attended, you have nattered prolix lamentations about the poor children, the poor children, the poor children, and yadada, yadada, yadada. Apparently, you are fond of poor children in the abstract as rhetorical props, but you don’t give a fig about them in the flesh and blood—especially if they are poor Hispanic children of immigrant parents.

The way Hispanics get treated makes even me angry, and I am a Southern Anglo. I just got back from NYC attending the Russian Kirov Ring Cycle at the Met. Walking to and from my hotel for each of the four operas, I saw Hispanics stocking the boutique grocery stores, hustling in the delis in all the low-end jobs, and, on my 12 midnight walk to the hotel, loading big garbage bags onto trucks.

These are the jobs native Americans won’t do. Any large city in this country would shut down without immigrant labor. Yet the anti-Hispanic bigots complain that Hispanics don’t speak English well when not one of those native-born bigots could write a literate paragraph in the English language to save his or her ignorant life and consents to pay a Hillsborough County superintendent $300,000 a year who can't punctuate and write above 7th-grade level.

If you cared about the Hispanic that you should stick up for, you would have been on the scene in that hot cafeteria to talk to those desperate immigrant parents. You would have jumped on Elia and her myrmidons and demanded an explanation of why the cruel experiment with no buses started with immigrant Hispanic children of farm workers, not with a more privileged neighborhood with parents who know how to make their resistance effective?

And did you agree to send Ms. Strickland, who talks like a bureaucratic android with her repeating of“best practices” and “state criteria?”

I think she’s the one that got dumped from the top administration transportation job but reassigned at the same bloated salary, higher than the guy recruited to be her boss.

That maneuver demonstrates the “Mess-up-move-up” history one board member had enough chutzpah to vote against in the crooked assignment of jobs of the brouhaha that accompanied the administrative transportation meltdown. You, to your discredit, did not join the no vote against thespoils-system of awarding administrative jobs.

Elia sent Strickland as the fall guy to avoid the bad publicity that savaging immigrant five-year-olds will get the much-decorated-Cracker-Jack superintendent. She didn't care whether Ms. Strickland could communicate with Hispanic parents or not.

If your cared a bit about the treatment of poor immigrant Hispanic children, you would have insisted that a Spanish-speaking spokesperson go to explain the policies. You would have needed only an ounce of courage and concern for those immigrant Hispanic children to demand that Elia send one who had not messed up in her job and who could not translate into plain terms why the
administration loaded the burden of this policy on the children of a vulnerable Hispanic farm-worker community.

Shame, Susan, shame. You have been on the board for two years and have done nothing to fulfill your campaign promises to represent Hispanics and to work to reform a corrupt administration supported by a politically cowardly, careerist board, which you have willingly become part of.

Now you have the effrontery to ask voters to elect you again after this feckless performance. You have, in short, rolled over and become a potted plant. You have not gone to bat for these Wimauma or any Hispanic children.

My little Southern hometown would say that you “have got above your raisin’.” There can be no worse insult in the rural community where I was born.

You have not protected the community your heritage demands should concern you. You have buckled to Elia’s coercion, have not let out a peep of dissent so as not to antagonize the other board potted plants, and have consented to become merely another cipher on the board.

Scampering about the country racking up points for board certification is beside the point with such a record of collusion with what’s wrong with the administration of the schools. Certification is a band aid on your callous, feckless performance as a board member.

That is a defection indeed from what you promised you intended to do when you ran for this post. You have become just another politician who makes and breaks promises to get into the incumbency rut and never does a thing afterwards to justify your election.

What a letdown you are.

But worst of all is the abandonment of the vulnerable community of immigrant Hispanic children whom you have betrayed. That ranks a major dishonor on your record in my book.

lee drury de cesare

From St. Petersburg Times



St. Petersburg Times - St. Petersburg, Fla.




Jul 22, 2007

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Document Text

About 200 pupils will have to walk that far in an area not designed for pedestrians.

The cafeteria, small and hot, was packed with 100 parents and their children squirming on small seats.

The mothers and fathers - some pushing Dora the Explorer strollers, others freshly changed from work clothes - waited patiently for the school district officials to speak.

Children living within 2 miles of Wimauma Elementary School will no longer have bus service when school starts Aug. 20, Karen Strickland, a bus system manager, told the crowd.

For many, Thursday night's meeting was the first they heard about changing school bus stops.

Strickland described a financial crunch, using words like "best practices" and "state criteria." Grim-faced parents had different issues. Sexual predators along the routes to school. Speeding trucks. Early work hours that conflict with school times. The change affects about 200 children who will now have to walk to school, up from 30 last year, according to school officials. The district deleted 17 bus stops in Wimauma as part of a pilot project for southeastern Hillsborough County that will expand to the rest of the county next school year.

Magnet schools, school choice and a shortage of bus drivers are behind the cuts, Strickland said. The state doesn't reimburse the county for transporting children who live within 2 miles of a school. State standards allow students to walk up to 2 miles to school.

How, parents asked, could school officials expect small children to walk 2 miles in a rural town with few to no sidewalks, across a highway with trucks hauling lumber and produce?

Parents grew agitated when district officials repeated answers.

"Why are we paying taxes? For this?" yelled Felipe Orenday, the father of a 7-year-old boy.

In a town where parents leave for the fields and other jobs by sunrise, children walk straight from the house to the corner bus stop. In the afternoon, many students take the bus to Bethune Park, where parents pick them up after work. That bus stop will be cut.

"There are a lot of [stray] dogs in Wimauma that are going to bite these children, a lot of bad people looking for children," said Juanita Ortiz, mother of girls ages 10 and 8.

The school opens its doors at 7:30 a.m., but parents said early work hours mean they won't be able to drive their children to school. Wimauma's roadsides are overgrown, their shoulders often strewn with broken beer bottles, they said. Cars race through the side streets, and homeless or unemployed men aimlessly roam the neighborhood in the afternoon.

Twenty-two sex offenders -including four sexual predators - live within 5 miles of Wimauma Elementary School, according to a state law enforcement Web site.

Strickland said the district transportation department can't fix law enforcement and community problems. State Road 674 isn't considered hazardous under state guidelines, she said, and the lack of sidewalks isn't enough to warrant busing as long as shoulders and rights of way exist.

Sheriff's Maj. John Marsicano attended the meeting and told parents he would try to get a second crossing guard for children along State Road 674.

Parents talked of starting a petition, but district officials told them they aren't singling out Wimauma. Families throughout the county will go through similar changes within the next two years.

Wimauma Elementary principal Roy Moral said his families face unique problems. He spent much of Friday trying to find solutions to the busing crisis.

"Many of our parents, because either they are blue collar or migrant farm workers, they have very limited options," he said. "During season they have to be out there at 6 a.m. And if they aren't working in the local area they are being driven down to Myakka City."

The area offers limited day care options, even if the parents could afford them, he said.

"This is not a suburban area. This is a rural area," he said.

Moral is considering opening the school earlier, either 6 a.m. or 6:30 a.m., so parents have a safe place to drop off the children before they leave for work.

Saundra Amrhein can be reached at (813) 661-2441 or