Office of the Governor
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001
February 2, 2008-02-
You campaigned on your dedication to education.
You may not be aware of how bad Superintendent MaryEllen Elia’s go-it-alone policies in
are for education. They negatively affect students and teachers, the heart and soul of education. Hillsborough County
The board goes along with Ms. Elia no matter how wrongheaded she is. The board seems to have no ambition but to occupy its ceremonial positions and not impact how Ms. Elia unilaterally runs the schools. There may as well be no board at all in
as the one that occupies that position now. Hillsborough County
Ms. Elia omits teachers altogether from her unilateral decisions. She loaded an extra class on teachers at the beginning of the school year to solve her budget problems without alerting them or even all board members. She passed on the data to favorites.
I have heard teachers complain about how this burden harms their ability to do their job to pass learning on to students The board sits by supine in this as in all decisions. In the board room, all board heads swing toward Ms. Elia to see what their attitude should be on any question.
Now Ms. Elia has imperially loaded a grading procedure on teachers to dummy down grades without consulting them. I believe she arrogated this privilege after a visit with you, sir, which she inferred bestowed your approval on her grade-devaluation scheme.
Teachers have at last stirred in rebellion on the Elia grade-dummying -down move. See the comments of veteran science teacher Jackie Kalbas below. Kalbas’s objection to devaluing grades formed Tribune columnist Steve Otto’s recent column.
Elia, abetted by the board, denigrates teachers and students. Ms. Elia and her obedient board will not even give these sine qua nons in the education equation a permanent place on the board agenda. Both board and superintendent appear to want not to have to acknowledge that teachers and students are the reasons for schools. Taxpayers don’t fund schools for superintendents and board members to prance around, issue ukases, and wax important.
The superintendent and board want teachers and their students to be quiet and continue to provide the financial base that gives the administration and the board freedom to pursue their schemes of power and prestige in the political and education-bureaucracy’s worlds.
Ms. Elia is the least qualified of candidates who applied for the superintendent job in 2005. I reviewed the applicant file and as a former college professor know qualified from unqualified in education matters. Elia lacked degrees and experience to be the top candidate. Indeed, the lady can’t even punctuate and handle grammar with competence. For an industry devoted to instilling literacy into young people, this compromised ability on the suprintendent’s part is ironic if not obscene.
But Ms. Elia was incestuous inside political appointment as were the superintendents before her in the
’s closed, parochial world of school administrators. The disingenuous board charged taxpayers $35,000 for a sham nationwide search when its members already knew Elia was their choice. The board signaled Elia was its pick by lowering the Ph.D. degree requirement to fit her master’s degree. Hillsborough County
Elia was the choice of the long-running inside administrative power cartel that schemes to put into the superintendent chair a person who will continue to bloat their salaries, award no-bid contracts to buddies and former administrators, and ignore the opinions of teachers, whom the administration terrorizes with loss of jobs by referring anyone who objects to administrative excesses to the Professional
I consider the no-bid racket to be one that invites graft. Logic suggests that graft has, in fact, accompanied it for all the years it has been in operation. The board with two exceptions supports the no-bid racket as well as the attorney. Mr. Gonzalez’s support rests, I believe, on his own no-bid award of the board-attorney job fourteen years ago.
A second problem with the Elia hegemony is that she is greedy. Even the Tribune has editorialized against this unlovely trait. She gets a “performance” bonus from a scheme continued from Dr. Lennard’s incumbency. He had negotiated it with an adoring board and the feckless board attorney, Tom Gonzalez. who enjoys a no-bid attorney sinecure that Lennard awarded him.
Board member Candy Olson cooperated with Ms. Elia to fold this Lennard scheme based on teachers’, not superintendent’s work, into her contract. As one can imagine, this is a bitter pill for teachers to swallow. A superintendent that scorns and devalues them gets the fruit of teachers’ work.
Even the two board members who gave Elia bad grades on her annual evaluation voted for this ill-conceived superintendent bonus in the unanimous tax giveaway of voters’ money that her bloated contract represents.
What can you do, sir, to improve the education in
that you assured voters you valued when you ran for governor? Hillsborough County
First, be aware of Ms. Elia’s money-grabbing tendencies and the board’s collusion have resulted in a $300,000 salary that tops the pay of superintendents with impeccable credentials and varied, wide experience nationwide. Do something to rein in such bloated superintendent salaries in
. In this state the education bureaucracy comprises the academic weaklings who couldn’t make it in the world of valid academic achievement and substituted degrees in an exotic educational subculture of non-academic degrees often from marginal universities such as the diploma mill NOVA. Florida
Second, encourage superintendents—especially ones who like Ms. Elia view teachers and students as the inconvenient money base for their power-- to include teachers and students in the decisions that affect both populations. Suggest to Ms. Elia directly that the board agenda feature a settled slot during which teachers and students get a say in how the board and superintendent run the schools. Suggest that Ms. Elia and the board send around an email welcoming students and teachers to participate in board colloquy and assure them that their comments won’t form basis for referring them to the Abu Ghraib cell block.
Third, be aware that Ms. Elia is of the genus that, if you give its members an inch, they will take a mile. When Ms. Elia comes to see you in
, be alert that she on her return to Tallahassee will order the school public-affairs office to issue a press release that spins the visit as evidence that she has great pull with you and that the governor and she are simpatici on her most wrong-headed notions about education. Tampa
Ms. Elia will order the school public-affairs office to spin your relationship with her as latitude to pursue her my-way-or-the-highway mode of leadership that has been so injurious to the teachers and students and learning in
. Hillsborough County
Henry Adams said, “A teacher affects eternity.”
He didn’t say that a superintendent, a school board, or even a governor affects eternity.
Guard the rights of the ones who affect eternity. Protect them against a superintendent dismissive of and even, I believe, jealous of teachers’ centrality to education.
Hillsborough county’s misrun school system needs your attention, sir. The students and teachers need your succor.
Lee drury de cesare
15316 Gulf Boulevard 802
Madeira Beach, FL 33708
leedrurydecesarescasting-February 2, 2008roomcouch.blogspot.com
c: press of SP and
This meeting with Crist appears to be one that Elia interprets as giving his go-ahead for her imposing grade inflation on the schools without consulting teachers.
April 17, 2007
Gov. Charlie Crist is open to reviewing the FCAT standards in high school, where the state asks students to jump a much higher bar than in the lower grade levels. It's a pet issue for the Hillsborough Superintendent MaryEllen Elia, who brought it up during a nearly half-hour meeting Monday with Crist in
The district has found that 10th graders just meeting the state's standards rank in the top 20 percent of students nationally. At lower grades, students making the FCAT bar perform far less well compared to their peers nationally. Third-graders, for example, place just above the bottom third.
"I am willing to listen to further talk," Crist said. "If there are always ways that we can make it, you know, better, why wouldn't we?"
Elia cheered his response. "I felt like our work on identifying (the issue) for him paid off," she said. "I pointed out to him that we've had this as a concern for a number of months." Elia doesn't expect anything to happen overnight. After all, as far as explosive issues go in
- Letitia Stein,
Failure Steve Otto column
Jackie Kalbas wanted to talk about what's happening in our public schools. Kalbas is a long-time
"I was shocked at the front page article about exam curving in The
"First of all, the high school science curve was based on exam scores from last year. Some of the high school science exams were different this year. In science the curve was set before the exam was ever administered.
"Second, you don't improve education by lowering your expectations to match what the students achieve. You improve education by setting your expectations high and working with students until they meet those expectations.
"Third, whoever said that an exam should match classroom achievement for a nine-week period? Nine-week grades include extra credit, homework, participation, etc. It should be harder to get an A on a midterm examination which tests accumulated knowledge from two nine-week periods.
"If the exams are 'too hard' and do not reflect what the students should reasonably be expected to learn, then you fix the exams. If teachers are not doing their jobs, then they should be replaced.
"In truth, teachers have been given much more to teach than is humanly possible. Because of [the
"There aren't even enough substitute teachers, so that many times we have no planning period because we have to cover classes for other teachers. All this means that some good teachers are doing less than their best through no fault of their own.
"If students who should not be in honors classes are being placed there regardless of their achievement, then this practice should be stopped. Yes, there are very capable students in this county who are disadvantaged by circumstances beyond their control. They are not achieving at the rate they could be and are therefore not getting into advanced and honors classes.
"We are not helping students by keeping them in classes where they do not belong. We're not helping anyone by devaluing the grades of high-achieving students with exam curves deep enough to bury a statistician.
"It looks good on paper when we have lots more students in advanced and honors classes. It doesn't look so good, however, when those students are removed or fail because they can't measure up. We need to be honest with ourselves, tell it like it is and work to solve our problems.
Up To College Standards?
"The newspaper article was quick to quote college sources that say curves are arbitrary and good exams hard to make. I'd like to see what some college professors think about this new 'curve the grade' policy. Do they really want students in their college classes who should not be there? Will colleges keep accepting
"If exam grades are having such a negative effect on students' overall grades and having an effect on their college entrance, then maybe exam grades should not be weighted so heavily. … No matter what, you don't curve the grades so that a student who earns 100 percent on an exam receives the same grade as a student who earns 61 percent. This was the case in regular physics in
Dumbing It Down
"It seems to me that we are 'dumbing down' education and lowering our expectations when we should be doing just the opposite. Every chance I get I argue that public education is not bad and that we are doing the best job possible with what we have to work with.
"I see teachers get to school when the doors open and leave long after the sun goes down. Teachers work nights, weekends, even during the holidays, and summer vacation to improve their students' achievement.
"I am a defender and advocate of public education. But this curve and the reasons for it are, in my opinion, impossible to defend. This latest decision about exams is the worst and does more to harm education than to help it. It devalues the grades of bona fide high-achieving students, it deceives average and below average students, it is a slap in the face to good teachers, and another black eye to public education.
"As a National Board-Certified classroom teacher for over 30 years, I hang my head in shame that my profession has sunk so low. If my children were still in school in
It has been widely thought that
Elia earned $13,600 for each school that achieved Annual Yearly Progress under the federal No Child Left Behind law. She got another $10,100 - at $100 a pop - for the 101 Hillsborough Schools that rated an "A" on the FCAT.
That's fair enough.
But she also was given nearly $8,000 for getting more students, particularly black students, to participate in advanced placement classes and to take AP exams - though the number of students who actually did well enough on the test to earn college credit did not improve.
Participation shouldn't be confused with achievement.
The Florida Department of Education also likes to pretend high schools are better than they are because more kids are signing up for advanced courses. One
In Hillsborough, just 45 percent of the more than 15,000 students who take AP courses score well enough on the exam to be given credit. And among minority students, the success rate was even lower.
On other significant measures, Elia received no bonus. There was no bonus for improvements in reading scores for black and Hispanic students in third, eighth and 10th grades. And although she did get a reward for higher math scores among minority students, at less than $1,800 it was just a smidgen of her overall bonus.
The two best measures of education success are nowhere to be found in Elia's contract: the high school graduation rate - not counting GEDs, which the state shamefully allows - and the number of Hillsborough high school graduates who need remediation when they attend a community college or university.
If the school board measured those things, it wouldn't be pretty.
More than 80 percent of those going into
Elia can't be blamed for negotiating a good deal for herself. She is earning more than $290,518 this year.
It is the school board that is responsible for the largesse. The contract may say Elia is being judged on performance, but parents and the public should not be fooled.
Posted by ( wazzamattaU ) on
Does anyone still believe our schools are under-funded?
Posted by ( ToeCutter ) on
She needs a tax break.
Posted by ( Major7th ) on
And yet the budget for our music programs is 90% less than it was 30 years ago. Way to go bean counter, milk the morons that run this school system for all their worth. You obviously don't any teaching experience to make 10 times what our teachers make.