Friday, December 12, 2008

The Civilizing of the Baord and Administration

A little Burnt Fort, Georgia, Girl Has Come a Long Way into the Reaches of Civilization

Wait a minute: the woman Candy Olsen allegedly helped get a job as a teacher because the woman helped her get her off from a DUI charge must be a different woman than the Butler woman whose trial the paper covered today.

From the paper:

Judge defends probation for teacher in sex case

By Colleen Jenkins, Times Staff Writer
In print: Friday, December 12, 2008

TAMPA — Prosecutors wanted former teacher Christina Butler to go to prison for repeatedly having sex with a special education student.

But when Hillsborough Circuit Judge J. Rogers Padgett looked around his courtroom during Butler's sentencing, he saw no outrage. No angry parents. No damaged boy.

It made him wonder if the victim felt like a victim.

"When you do not have a victim, then what are you left with?" Padgett told the St. Petersburg Times on Thursday. "When you don't have retribution, you don't have much of anything."

Judge Padgett is not a psychiatrist; how can he assess the victim’s mental damage unless he orders the court to have a psychological assessment of the boy? The boy—16 at the time of the sex with this teacher—did not show up at court, nor did his parents. That suggests negligent, uncaring parents, a situation that should concern a competent judge. Then the young fellow went to school, and his 30-year-old teacher has sex with him. I submit that he sounds like a victim to me no matter Judge Padgett’s unorthodox diagnosis.

Butler, 34, faced up to 30 years in prison. Swayed by three hours of testimony about the ex-Middleton High School teacher's long history of mental disorders, the judge sentenced her Wednesday to five years of sex offender probation.

Here’s where the Hillsborough County board and administration come in. They did not have this prospective employee Butler assessed competently before throwing her in with a group of mentally and emotionally damaged children. Mr. Valdez is head of personnel and makes a ton of tax money for that job. Where was he when this initial screening for personality suitability of the special-ed teacher should have been conducted?

He said from the bench that the victim, then 16 and borderline mentally retarded, according to prosecutors, was probably the more mature and less vulnerable of the two.

This is a hare-brained guess by the judge. How can he tell that the victim was the “more mature and less vulnerable of the two”? With the victim not present, what Ouija board did the judge consult to make that judgment?

That suggestion horrified an attorney who said he plans to sue the Hillsborough County School District and possibly Butler on behalf of the teenage victim. Butler admitted having sex with the student up to a dozen times during a three-week period in fall 2007.

Maybe this 30-year-old-adult woman had emotional problems. Everybody I know does. But if everybody used that as an excuse for sexually abusing minors, we would have a whole lot more of such abuse. It shouldn’t matter that Butler had emotional problems. Those do not prevent an adult woman in this society knowing not to abuse one of her mentally impaired students.

"I want to see her get on the stand and say that she was more vulnerable than this child," said attorney Darryl Rouson. Me too. "I can't see a civil jury, using its common sense, coming to the same conclusion as Judge Padgett." Rouson said he didn't know why neither the teenager nor his parents showed up for Butler's hearing. Court records show that the victim's mother accepted a subpoena served to her son more than a month ago.

Maybe Judge Padgett should have favored the court with his telepathic analysis of why the mother didn’t show up.

The Hillsborough State Attorney's Office is appealing Butler's sentence and would not comment Thursday.

Good. I hope the appeals court gives Judge Padgett a verbal horsewhipping for arrogance and ignorance.

The victim's voice certainly could have influenced Padgett's decision.

I am not sure of that. Judge Padgett seems to harbor a delusion that he is rescuing a damsel in distress. I don’t think a mentally impaired teenage boy is the judge’s type.

Last year, the judge heeded the call from another set of parents who wanted prison time for the teacher who had sex with their teenage daughter. Jaymee Wallace, a former Wharton High teacher and coach with far less documented evidence of mental illness than Butler, received three years in prison and three years of sex offender probation.

I am a committed feminist, but it’s hard not to see this as sexist justice. The man gets slammed; the woman claims to be nervous and overwhelmed, and the Judge brings in the legal chivalric code to rescue her. This is not fair, and it is not equality.

In Butler's case, Padgett said he became convinced that the teenager was more experienced in seduction than the teacher and heard no testimony that suggested otherwise. This psychological omniscience sounds whacky to me.

Even though the teen was in a special education class, one psychologist who testified for the defense said he wasn't mentally retarded. The state provided no experts to contradict that claim.

Another psychologist for the prosecution would have gainsaid this no doubt. If this boy was not mentally compromised, why did the schools put him in this special-ed class? Are the school personnel unable to assess the personality of the applicant in the employment interview? If so, what are these incompetents doing in the job?

Defense attorneys said the teen asked for Butler's phone number and to go to her home. In court records, he said the sex was consensual. He wore a condom that he brought with him.

The boy is a lot more prescient than the so-called mentally healthy, spoiled-rotten boys who prowled the neighborhoods of Beach Park where my husband and I raised three daughters.

"He exercised authority over her," Padgett said.

This inference from Judge Padgett has nothing to recommend it but chivalric intuition.

Rouson questioned why Butler, portrayed by her attorneys as overwhelmed and not adequately trained to teach a high school special education class, was hired in the first place.

Now here’s the part that interests me because it speaks to the school system’s unsatisfactory administration of the special-ed section of the schools.

His special-ed supervisors Smiley, Sosa, and Morris recently charge a teacher named Steve Kemp with child abuse and suspended him. These three had thrown Kemp into a classroom with no training. His supervisors Smiley, Sosa, and Morris had not given him a shred of instruction for this job as they were supposed to do. The aide left who was helping Steve because of burnout from her duties. Alone, Steve had two large and rowdy students whom he was trying to control. He couldn’t do two at a time, so he hooked the harness of one to a stationery object. (This harness, used on bus restraint apparently, should have come off when the student entered the classroom, but nobody had taken off the harnesses of the boys.) Steve had no instructions on restraint protocol for special-ed students.

The people who should have instructed Mr. Kemp on how to deal with a class of mentally challenged students but hadn't. These administrators Smiley, Sosa, and Morris walked in while Steve was struggling with one of the obstreperous children. Six days later, Mr. Smiley filed a child-abuse charge against Steve Kemp. Meanwhile, Smiley, Sosa, and Morris had left Steve Kemp in the classroom of the special-ed children.

A logical person will ask, “If Kemp was a child abuser, why did Smiley, Sosa, and Morris leave him in the classroom for six more days to take care of children before Smiley filed a child-abuse charge against Steve with the Sheriff’s office?

I can answer that. Steve has a blog. His blog name is Goader. He criticizes the school system. Ms. Elia does not tolerate criticism and sets the Professional Standards office on any teacher or even cafeteria worker to flag him or her for scrutiny and manufacture a case against the offender for firing when some little peccodillo occurs.

The board knows all about this vicious intimidation of teachers and other employees of the schools outside the ROSSAC bunker and has for years done nothing about it and even votes for the firing recommendations of these individuals when their cases come before the board. The board keeps away from these cases of administrative retaliation so as to maintain deniability when queried on the subject.

That’s the kind of leadership that the voters of Hillsborough County have at the ROSSAC building.

Special education teachers are in short supply nationwide. Hillsborough schools spokeswoman Linda Cobbe said Butler had temporary certification to teach exceptional student education, a situation that is not uncommon as someone takes coursework to become fully certified.

Does it make sense to put probationers, especially those afflicted with mental malaise, into classrooms with vulnerable special-ed children? Is this competent leadership by the school administration and board?

Cobbe said the district wasn't aware of Butler's mental health issues.

How come the ignorance? Didn’t Mr. Valdez or his staff do an employment interview in which competent personnel would assess the prospective employee’s mental status? "We don't do psychological screenings," she said. "We do criminal background checks."

The school board and administration hire teachers for the mentally handicapped on the cheap instead of adding a needed psychological screening before putting a teacher in the classroom with these vulnerable children. In Steve's case, Smiley, Sosa, and Morris made matters worse by not giving Kemp the training required for a special-ed classroom.

The solicitude shown by the board and administration for the erring principal at Alafia Elementary School illustrates the disparate treatment the board and administration give to teachers and administrators.

When Alafia parents said that the principal Ms. Smith should go because her personality did not fit a principal’s role, Ms. Elia et al summoned a mentor to teach Ms. Smith how to interact with parents and children for $345 an hour or $2600 a day; the administration and board were also revving up to send Ms. Smith and her vice-principal for a personality make-over to Eckerd at $4500 a pop for each. Steve Hegarty, head of Public Affairs admitted that there might be other expenses for this personality renovation of Ms. Smith.

Why, one asks, did Ms. Elia and her court of board members throw oodles of money at this problem of an unsuitable principal at Alafia instead of removing her from the job? Well, first, she’s an administrator. For the administration and board, tax money is there for them to spend to make their lives more interesting, safer, and fun. Witness Ms. Elia’s $300,000 and growing salary and Board Member Valdez’s blowing $50,000 last year on board “business” to Las Vegas and points west. Ms. Candy Olson had as one of her trips for educational enlightenment a soiree to Alaska. The rest of the board members spent thousands each on questionable travel and charged it to the taxpayers when thousands of poor children in the county don’t have supplies to participate in class projects. Does this sound as if the board and administration care about children? Not to me. It looks to me that they care only about themselves.

The second reason Ms. Smith got such solicitous treatment is that she is and her husband are friends of Ms. Elia and her husband. So I infer Ms. Smith to have been one of Ms. Elia’s buddy hires. The board piously proclaims on every space it can find the lie that it is an equal-opportunity employer. Then it gives Ms. Elia patronage rights to hire her buddies, sycophants, and other hangers-on to high-level jobs for which they lack competence but which pull down up to $150,000 a year for their inadequate performances.

Ms. Elia even invented two jobs for an outgoing buddy, Dr. Jim Hamilton, who got the willies when it came time for him to retire and leave the field of his glorious overlord position in the schools. Ms. Elia first created Lord Jim a temporary job with an inflated title at $140,000 a year. When he finally left the schools, she abolished the job after he had run out $70,000 of this first invented perch, Ms. Elia then cooked up a consultant job for him in Tallahassee at, I think it is, $165,000 a year. But when it’s mere tax money, who’s counting when it’s the administrative uber-class that is involved?

Team players Ms. Jennifer Falliero and Ms. April Griffin of the board skulked around in an adventure of back-room politics to convince Ms. Smith to resign. She did and got the board and administration off the hook and out of the press’s eyes. The guess is that now Ms. Elia will find an even more desirable post for her buddy La Smith. And the board will not let out a peep.

School districts are taking a chance whenever they put someone in charge of a challenging group of students without enough support and training, regardless of the teacher's own mental health situation, said Sara Bicard, assistant professor of special education at the University of Memphis.

Well, one wonders why the bloated-pay administrators of the school system don’t 1. know this information and 2. deal with it? Folks, let me give you my assessment. They don’t know these data because they don’t read anything but the most content-lite material; they even have trouble even getting the buses to run on time and recently summoned and paid a pricey consultant $350,000 from the tax funds they carry around in bushell baskets in ROSSAC to tell them to do two simple things: Get scheduling software; put the buses in a convenient place. The administration put these two pieces of expensive, Romper-Room advice on flash cards and has been shuffling them ever since.

We are not talking about people qualified to run a school system. As illustration, you should be aware that Dr. Hamilton, for whom Ms. Elia invented two jobs, does not know the difference between the homophones “you’re” and “your.” I shall ask Ms. Cobbe for a summary of his work product since he has been lobbying for the schools. He should be laid off with the impending budget cuts; but don’t count on it. And especially don’t expect the board members to look out for the taxpayers and insist that Dr. Your-You’re be laid off.

"This temporary certification process where we just stick a warm body in the classroom while they do their coursework may set teachers up for failure," she said.

Dr. Bicard could be describing the situation in the special-needs students section of the Hillsborough County schools.

Butler's sentence sparked quite a debate among people who posted comments about it on the Times' Web site,

Padgett, who faces mandatory retirement at year's end but plans to serve as a senior judge, said he didn't pay much attention to the flurry of opinions.

I must write the Judicial Qualification Committee that this dear old bumbler is unfit for the bench. He should retire and learn needlepoint and cross-stitch.

"You've got to do what's right," he said. "I like to think I've never imposed a sentence upon a person because of what the public might think."

Lord, no. Heavens forfend. Judge Padgett just sits on the bench and makes up these lulus of verdicts for fun and to hell what mere taxpayers who pay his salary think. He will come off the bench only kicking and screaming.

I bet anything that Judge Padget graduated in the lower quartile of his class and then suckered the voters into electing him to the bench despite his insufficient candle power.

Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Colleen Jenkins can be reached at or (813) 226-3337.

The Board and Administration’s Eclaircissment

My introduction to the school board was Candy Olson. Her arrogant, crude conduct in a matter involving homophobia catalyzed my interest in how the schools are run.

Bart Birdsall, my gay friend, and a mother named Jane with a gay son at Hillsborough tried and tried and tried to get the district people to do something about the bullying of gays in the schools. Gays would tell Bart that they wanted to commit suicide so injurious was this bullying. Bart and Jane trudged around to hostile board members and administrators, striving to make the case for a program against homophobia in the schools.

Their audience was indifferent and evasive. Board members excel at the political runaround of evasion. The school board members showed themselves to Bart and Jane as run-of-the mill pols. They were determined to allow the gay-bashing in the schools along with the suicide threats if these didn’t affect their chances of re-election.

Jane finally moved away with her son, but Bart did not give up. He kept up his campaign to get humane treatment of all children but especially gay children under such cruel pressure as that they endured in the halls and classrooms of the schools every day. The Miami district was doing good things in this area, so he cited that experience again and again. He did everything he could short of executing cartwheels in the ROSSAC fortress to get the district to protect this group of vulnerable children.

I did my bit to augment his effort. I recall once chasing Earl the Pearl Lennard down the hall after a Tiger-Bay event to get the Pearl to hold the seminar that Bart was plunking for at the time to invite the Miami experts to discuss ways to stop gay bashing in the schools of Hillsborough County. I had on a pair of 2 ½-inch Manohla Blanicks and almost broke my neck scampering after the Pearl.

But I ran Le Pearl down because he must have considered it undignified (as if the man who savaged Erwin for as long as Mr. Erwin could take it before he finally gave up on the school “authorities” and filed a whistle-blower lawsuit against the board and won it) to break into a run to escape a white-haired granny chasing him and yelling, “Dr. Lennard! Dr. Lennard! Wait up!” He promised to hold the seminar but didn’t of course. The administration ethics are Swiss cheese as anybody who watches this gang of poseurs in action for a fortnight can tell you.

Meanwhile, I learned that a teacher in a middle school (I think it was) had a Bible on his desk and was menacing a gay boy in his class with threats that his soul was damned to hell if he did not depart from gay sexual orientation.

I had lived in Beach Park for twenty years while my children were in school and before my husband and I moved to our gulf condo in Madeira Beach because our house was too big and too empty for us after the children left.

My old home area’s board representative, I thought, was the appropriate one to approach with this problem of teacher coercion of a gay student. I learned that the school board representative for Beach Park was Candy Olson so decided to lay the problem before her for solution.

Olson’s response was astonishing in its crude incivility. She snapped back via email that the last time she heard, we still had free speech in this country—weird, given the hostility of the board and administration to free speech and their covert campaign to punish any school teacher who exercises it as the current case of Steve Kemp illustrates.

I revved up my rhetorical vitriol engines and blasted Candy to a faretheewell in my email response. She didn’t respond. I then alerted the principal of the school, who, god bless the woman, shut the Bible-thumper teacher up and forbade his torturing the student. This case reminds us that all teachers are not angels.

Hence, it was with incredulity that I watched the board and administration choreography announcing the program to curtail bullying at the December 9th board meeting. Cecil B. DeMille could not have mounted a more bathetic, self-serving, duplicitous show. It was as if the idea for the anti-bashing program had descended from the heavens and lodged itself in the board’s pure hearts and that abolishing gay bashing was the board and administration’s idea from the get-go.

All board members, Ms. Elia, and even Mr. Gonzalez chimed in with their salute to the wisdom of the program that they implied emerged from them alone and that a fellow named Bart Birdsall nor even Jesus, one of the world’s good guys who for sure hates gay bashing, never had a thing to do with begging them for years about the need for such a program.

Jesus, by the way, is my particular friend. He always shows up at the dinner on the family cemetery grounds in Burnt Fort, Georgia, because Jesus is particularly partial to my Aunt Blanche's chicken and dumplings. My family mounts this orgy yearly, after which my baby brother with advanced history degrees always says, "I near-bout et myself to death on neckbones and rice." All those interested in reginal cuisine need to know that neckbones and rice is a cuisine that emerged during the Great Depression that produced those haunting pictures of Now Let Us Now Praise Famous Men by James Agee. My family was Episcopal when it came from England to claim a land grant, and we built the first church on the cemetery grounds at Burnt Fort; it has our war dead in the back of the cemetery and the family in the front of the cemetery next to the church. The boys of the family nail up planks between the pine trees to make tables for the food served at the dinner on the grounds.

The congregation of the Drury Family Cemetery has since become members of the hordes of born-again sects that infest the area. The whole community is far gone in religion at its most vigorous expression. I believe that the local garage culture has a weekly prayer meeting for the habitués of the various filling-station hangouts in town.

My Catholic husband, whom I met when I was an airline stewardess when you had to have a degree to get the job, leaves these gatherings featuring a church service in a state of shock and disbelief from experiencing the preacher’s athletic performance and the energy with which the songs pour forth from the congregation. I know these all by heart and sing to the top of my lungs. The only thing to be said for Baptists is that their songs are easy to sing whereas Episcopal songs are esoteric productions of ministers who got their theology degrees at Cambridge and who write, not surprisingly, songs with words and tunes of which ordinary people can never learn by heart.

The piano player, my cousin Shirley’s oldest and homeliest daughter, is sometimes indisposed, so one of my banjo-playing male cousins who works at the supermarket accompanies the singing.

The banjo only adds to the surreal atmosphere and throws my husband into deeper shock.

In point of fact, Ms. Elia and Ms. Home-ec Kipley had previously cooked up a case against Bart so that they could fire him for using the school emails for political purposes because he wrote protest emails from his home to the head of the county library, also gay, who helped ban gays from the library under Ronda Storms’s homophobic ukase before she went to Tallahassee as a senator to agitate for gay bashing and the shutdown in the state of anything for birth control except abstinence.

It was in a conversation that Bart and I had with Elia about his case after she spoke at Tiger Bay that I learned how she lied fluently. I got the impression, since confirmed, that she was in the habit of lying when it suited her subterranean purposes.

I helped Bart in his fight to keep his job, and he did keep his job (he is now a media specialist) because even though Elia had the ROSSAC technology department set up the computer system to review his emails and strain them for gnats, the computer jockeys could find nothing but a notice Bart had put on the media bulletin board for a speak-out against the discrimination against gays in the library situation.

This was what the site was for, so the administration even with Mr. Gonzalez’s diabolical lawyering couldn’t make a valid case to fire Bart.

What Bart suffered in the end was the stress of having his free speech and job threatened and the mind games Home-ec Kipley conducted on him in her Cell Block office with the messy desk drawers. He had to go to therapy to get him back into psychological trim, but he survived and is now, as I predicted he would be, invulnerable to the ROSSAC thugs’ machinations.

Fighting back conveys a kind of invulnerability because the sadists see you are not a patsy and will garner them some bad publicity so that the public will catch on to their sadistic power games to protect the racket they have made of the school system in this county for their own power and profit and to hell with the voters, the teachers, and the students, and even the citizens who, in their ignorance, elect them.

Like wolves do that follow the buffalo herds, the administration and board predators turn to observing all in the teacher herd to pick out and consume the weak straggler who won’t fight back. They crucify the straggler of the herd to keep all the other teachers in terror of similar treatment. This is how the Nazis murdered on a heroic scale 6 million Jews—men, women, and children—in World War II while not only German society but also the world looked the other way, including the United States.

In case we have forgotten, let’s remind ourselves that school board members are experts in the realpolitik of looking the other way as the Erwin case proves. Three of that original group of board members still perch on the dais: Lamb, Olson, and Kurdell. They have got their Ph.D.s in Looking the Other Way.

Hillsborough County school sociology and psychology teachers could limn the psychological guts of the phenomenon I describe above. Society has ever been a beast that requires civilizing. Only a few people accomplish this task by suggesting new things to do to make society more hospitable to more and different people and their ideas, not just the selected collaborators within the margins of acceptability because these submit to the straitened ideas of what’s ok and what’s not.

The people who suggest new insights and new ways to behave get skewered for stepping outside the margins of living in the rut that most people see as the correct way to exist. Look what happened to Galileo. The church slapped him into a cell for suggesting that the earth revolved around the moon. Even in art, consider Van Gogh. He sold three paintings while he was alive; had his brother Theo not fed him, he would have starved to death. Now Japanese industrialists pay millions of dollars for one of Van Gogh’s paintings that the up-tight art world rejected when he was alive. And even the most stupid today accept that the earth does indeed circle the moon.

My first years of the 45 I have spent working for women’s rights taught me how hostile the great herd of society can be to new ideas. I was called everything but a lady and bricks broke my front door’s glass. Some sexist stole one the lions on my stoop.

But that women-s movement experience had its reward. It made me indifferent to the hostile reaction of those who want me to go away and die and not advocate for change.

That training in the Women’s Movement has made me Teflon-coated to the hostility of the board when I go up to the podium to address it. This board of clumsy practitioners of sadism and conservatism of the evil that exists in our society will never quell me or people like me. And there are more of us than they fear to acknowledge.

This board and administration are obtuse amateurs in trying to shut up rebels. Their campaign via Pole-girl Falliero’s feeble rhetorical talents that must be augmented by Public Affairs editing to make her product literate in her attempt to get the newspapers to register all blog participants for the covert purpose of the administration’s seeking them out for retaliation shows the board and administration are in over their heads.

The first thing a dictator does is to shut down the press. Newspapers go out of business without the First Amendment. So they won’t augment the board and administration’s effort to do away with free speech. It’s the basis of their livelihood and of our democracy. Newspapers will oppose curtailing free speech from now until the cows come home. The board and administration lack the brains, the education, and the élan to shut down blogs or any kind of free speech. The courts protect us bloggers. The school board and ROSSAC’s amateur dictators may as well hang it up.

I know in my heart that Galileo would have wanted to hang out with me had I been around when the church shut him up in a cell for saying the earth circled the moon and not vice versa. To neutralize the loungers of our association, I would have him teach me math and physics, which are Greek to me. I would teach him how to make chicken and dumplings as the five-star chefs do in my home stomping grounds of Burnt Fort, Georgia.

Maybe the psychologists and sociologists working for the Hillsborough County school faculties will issue a white paper to Casting-room Couch for publication that analyzes the behavior and thought processes of the board and administration that evolved over the ten years of Bart’s campaign to get humane treatment for gay children or any children different from the middle rank of children in the schools. This white paper will trace the path of how the hated ideas of the few become part of the doxology of the many.

That is how civilization works these teachers will instruct us.

What the board needs is a resident psychiatrist to compare its members’ behavior with the tenets of Freud, Jung, and all the other boys from Vienna. I think the staff psychiatrist would discern major pathology in the ROSSAC environs and could conduct group therapy on a major scale.

If the reader who wrote me about how Candy had a hand in hiring the woman cited in the child-sex case would be more explicit and tell us all the circumstances of how Olson and other school authorities (there had to be those inside who assisted in a hiring: a person does not get hired in the circumstances cited without an inside power web of collaborators).

Do this deed for the promotion of a wholesome society and wholesome schools, and Galileo may want to be your best bud too. Also fill in with any data you know about Candy’s helping a woman who had been an exotic dancer get a job as a teacher. To my astonishment, I heard that rumor at least once. Is this the same woman as the above?

This is a murky area that Candy’s constituents needs light thrown on before she next presents herself of election. lee


From: Anonymous []
Sent: Friday, December 12, 2008 9:04 AM
Subject: [Lee Drury De Cesare's Casting-Room Couch] New comment on Worse and Worser.

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Worse and Worser":

I wouldn't be surprised. There are lots of rumors about Candy Olson and how she scratches people's backs who can scratch hers in return. She's as corrupt as they come, but when she speaks on the dais at board meetings you would think she is holier than thou, because she acts like she is. That type is the very type to do lots of unethical stuff behind closed doors. Their public persona is pristine, but they are filthy and corrupt behind the scenes.

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1 comment:

Thomas Vaughan said...


I was listening to the SB meeting stream this morning. I want to thank you for your comments to the board seeking equal treatment for teachers.

We appreciate your efforts on our behalf.