Tuesday, September 18, 2007

lee drury de cesare

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From: lee decesare
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Sent: Tuesday, September 18, 2007 1:21:48 PM
Subject: protest of local PDK speaker's selection

To: Chair

International PDK

From: Lee Drury De Cesare

Subject: Inappropriate selection of speaker for local PDK annual dinner

Date: September 18, 2007

Dear Mr. Roaden:

One sees with dismay that the local chapter of PDK has chosen Ms. MaryEllen Elia as speaker at its annual dinner.

Ms. Elia, superintendent of Hillsborough County schools, is a particularly problematic choice for a society that devotes itself to excellence in education.

Ms. Elia’s record on excellence in education is quite markedly deficient. Her record is more demonstrative of ambitious pursuit of the superintendent position to bloat hers and other administrators’ salaries than to promote excellence in education. She uses her position as superintendent not to augment excellence in education but to exercise a unilateral power rubberstamped by a complicit board to diminish teachers’ participation in education decisions that affect them and their students. These board-superintendent decisions define a system’s policies that strip teachers of input and thus negatively impact any education excellence to be achieved by the very people--classroom teachers-- who insure this transcendent goal.

In the first place, Ms. Elia’s writing ability does not exhibit the hallmarks of someone with devotion to excellence education. She lacks basic punctuation skills, and her rhetoric is junior-high level. Any person dedicated to excellence in education learns how to write and punctuate at an excellent level. Ms. Elia has not. One can examine her writing output on the school Web for confirmation of this observation.

Ms. Elia acquired her job in an irregular fashion, using board-administration politics instead of credentials to become superintendent. A complicit school board lowered the Ph.D. requirement to the master’s that defines Ms. Elia’s terminal degree and rejected candidates objectively superior to Ms. Elia with diverse experience, writing ability that included published educational research, and Ph.D.’s from distinguished institutions. Ms. Elia got the job instead of the better candidates because she was the inside candidate calculated to keep the administration on the same path of mediocrity in education, unsatisfactory to everyone except the administration and an entrenched coterie on the board interested not in education but in maintaining political incumbency.

In her two years as superintendent, Ms. Elia has alienated teachers by administering by fiat, not by cooperation. She imposed recently an extra class on teachers to solve her budget problem in implementing the state class-size amendment without consulting teachers, for example, and dumped the ukase on them without warning with the board’s approval. She has even refused to accord teachers along with students a designated time on the board agenda to give them a place at the table where the board and she make decisions and inflict them on teachers without their input.

The board has colluded with Ms. Elia in squelching teacher input at board meetings, for example, by the Chair’s , Dr. Lamb’s, calling teacher applause of a colleague’s comments “out of order” and gaveling teachers down mid-clause when the meager three minutes allowed them for comment is over.

This three-minute limit is especially offensive, given some board members’ wont to ramble on ad infinitum and all board members’ eating up time by flowery comments to each other on the “awards” they have won for their spurious achievements in the education administration bureaucracy’s ersatz prize scams and raffles.

The ill-conceived negative, impatient attitude toward teacher observations from board members in the public meeting has a chilling effect on teacher input even of those teachers who brave the hostility of the board to teachers’ presence at the public meetings of the board. Certain members of the board make plain they do not welcome teachers in the public discussion of school policy. One board member, Ms. Edgecombe, a former principal, has labeled teachers rude and discourteous to the board merely for their even daring to question the administration and the board’s policies. Another board member, Ms. Olson, called teachers lazy in a meeting when they protested the extra class imposed on them by Ms. Elia without their input, and the camera showed that Ms. Elia and Ms. Olson even passed notes during the negative comments on teachers' putative laziness.

In short, the board and administration make teachers’ reception as inhospitable as possible at board meetings without expelling them from the meeting altogether. The board and administration seem to regard teachers and their students as the field hands who provide the economic base for the board’s and administration’s grand show of civic panoply at the administration plantation mansion, not to mention their masters’ bloated paychecks and perquisites.

Yet the very teachers unwelcome at board meetings reign vectors of the excellence in education that PDK fosters.

Ms. Elia’s personal professional ethics as seen by me personally are distressingly deficient. I observed first hand how Ms. Elia and the head of Professional Standards, Linda Kipley, manufactured a case of misusing school emails by a media specialist friend of mine, Bart Birdsall, apparently to accommodate the country-administrator friend of Ms. Elia’s desire to punish Bart because he, as a gay man, protested from his home computer about the shutdown of county library privilege to gays in educational displays. It turned out that the Elia-Kipley cooked-up case had no basis in fact; but they harassed Bart nonetheless and didn‘t even apologize for terrorizing him when their case fell apart. He had to go to therapy subsequently to deal with the trauma of this cruel treatment by Ms. Kipley and Ms. Elia. The board knows about the distorted use of Professional Standards and looks the other way.

Widely known is that the Professional Standards unit is the administration’s covert weapon of coercion with which to squelch teacher disagreement with administration policies. The understood policy of retaliation for honest disagreement from anyone in the school family, especially teachers, is that the person protesting gets put under surveillance for entrapment and punished in some manner subversive of the dignity and professional status of the targeted unfortunate, especially teachers. The Professional Standards unit as run by Ms. Kipley for Ms. Elia’s outreach of control of school personnel does not so much promote professional standards as it imposes silence and fear of loss of job for those who speak up..

The which being said, I suggest that the local chapter has made an unfortunate choice for speaker of the PDK local dinner. The
Hillsborough County area has two universities, a community college, and a wide range of possible speakers on educational excellence for this event who do not, as does Ms. Elia, disregard educational excellence and its purveyors, the teachers of the Hillsborough County School system.

I write not as a member of PDK but as long-time member of sister society PBK--Phi Beta Kappa-- for many years. Both organizations are devoted to education excellence, and the choice of PDK’s speakers for chapter events should confirm, not undermine, that goal.

I believe that Ms. Elia’s background and conduct do not confirm excellence in education and protest PDK local’s choice of her for the honor of speaking at its annual dinner.

Lee Drury De Cesare

15316 Gulf Boulevard 802

Madeira Beach, FL 33708