The biggest lie has always been to keep quiet; and the best life-enhancer is to provoke, unsettle, rile – in short, to make people face the truth.
From: lee de cesare
Mr. Bob Herbert, NYTimes:
Your column today cites failing high schools as omen for the country’s failing in the world because we are not educating our young people to face the looming competition of a better educated world that values education while we don’t.
You say that the chief executive of AT&T, Randall Stephenson, said his company, based in San Antonio, has had trouble finding enough skilled workers to handle 5,000 customer-service jobs he had promised to bring back from overseas.
You continue: “We can’t even keep the kids in school. A third of them drop out. Half of those who remain go on to graduate without the skills for college or a decent job.”
I taught college English for 28 years. Most of the students who entered my freshman English classes from the Hillsborough County high schools couldn’t write even a literate paragraph much less an essay. I couldn’t teach them Shakespeare before I took up half the semester teaching them grammar, punctuation, paragraph and essay construction that they should have learned in the middle and high schools.
This situation is bound to get worse since the Hillsborough County Board allowed the superintendent of schools to download on the teachers an extra class period to replace their planning time; let her to inflict on teachers and students a grade-inflation plan that made the superintendent look good in the state education bureaucracy but which the teachers opposed because it deprived students of the skills they would need to get into good colleges; sat inert and allowed the superintendent purchase “The Spring,” which replaces textbooks with a gimcrack commercial doodad to make money for edu-business and perhaps produce payoffs to the administration and board members.
Critics automatically attack the teachers’ unions as the locus of school problems. As a veteran teacher, I can attest that teachers’ unions are way down the list of causes for the malaise in high schools. Somnolent school boards and ignorant, corrupt administrations are Problem One.
Hillsborough County’s school-board candidates promise voters to guard taxpayers’ money and to require more to be spent on schools.
The board in the real world has a history of allowing a system of theft to go on in the schools’ grounds department without intervening. The board allowed workers to be paid without even coming to work; the board allowed corrupt employees to steal supplies and resell them; it allowed a corrupt manager to rig bids for his buddies; it rubberstamped contracts with rumored favorite contractors close to the board who built shoddy schools whose roofs leaked, whose paint pealed, whose water seepage everywhere was significant; whose ACs wore out in a couple of years instead of twenty, whose doors and even their handles were second-rate or second-hand.
The contractors did shoddy work but got top pay with the board’s rubber stamp. The board allowed these outrages to go on without raising an eyebrow. It was business as usual and tra-la-la.Three board members still sit on the board who were there during the worst of the above problems: Candy Olson, Carol Kurdell, and Dr. Lamb. Just as long as it’s taxpayer money, the sky’s the limit.
All the Hillsborough County board is interested in is getting elected and having the social éclat of swanning around town to receptions, cotillions, summits, tractor pulls, hoedowns of any description pretending they are the local Pooh-Bahs of education. They dote on sitting on the board dais in ceremonial potted-plant panoply, and that’s all they do besides give each other Cracker-jack awards for imagined achievements.
They spend a lot of board time oohing and aahing over some board member’s or administrator’s getting a plastic Intergalactic Award for Excellence and Stuff Like That.
Instead of hiring one of the Ph.D.s from good schools with histories of successful performance and even publication, the board lowered the requirement of a PH.D. to a Master’s for the current in-house superintendent, Mary Ellen Elia, and pay her $300,000 a year, the highest I could find in a search of the Web. They thought an in-house operator would be more likely not to disturb their incumbency and to hell with the best leader for the schools is my inference.
Board member Candy Olson assisted the superintendent in mapping her current pay plan, which includes $37,000 in “performance bonus” for work the teachers did in raising students’ scores. The greedy superintendent is planning more bloat of her salary beyond this stratospheric figure with the Spring gimcrack plan that she bought without consulting teachers and will get no resistance from the board one is sure. Board members rubberstamp everything the superintendent puts in front of them. If anybody objects to no-bid contracts for the superintendent’s buddies, a couple of board members will leap to the administration’s defense and accuse the board member who asked to examine this practice of being disloyal to the board staff. One board member, April Griffin, enraged two members, Carol Kurdell and Candy Olson, by asking for examination of a superintendent buddy contract for $76,0000. Their jumping onto her has silenced this board member probably permanently. Courage among the board members is an absent quality.
The board lets the superintendent fill high-level, bloated-pay administrative jobs with sycophants and buddies without proper education or experience. The head of technology is a guy named Jack Davis, who has an early childhood degree and not one credit in computers. Mr. Dais was prominent in harassing and retaliating against a past administrator, Doug Erwin, when Erwin pointed out all the theft, waste, and chicanery in the various areas over which the superintendent placed him. Erwin finally got a lawyer, won the case and a $175,000 settlement from the taxpayers, and retired.
Lawyer Gonzalez’s firm reaped the benefits of the payment for the trial, one infers. The culprits remained and kept their high-level jobs. The main guy named McClelland who made himself rich stealing from taxpayers made a clean getaway. Ms. Elia with the board’s collusion even manufactured a boutique job for Dr. Hamilton, who doesn’t know the difference between the homophones “your” and “you’re” so that he could have ample time to dither about whether he should retire or not. This job was $140,000 a year. The board approved it. The taxpayers paid.
The head of building new schools is a woman with an early childhood degree. She superintended the construction of a school a big part of which collapsed and had to be rebuilt, but the contractor didn’t have enough insurance to cover the cost, so the taxpayers had to pay for it. What the taxpayers have to pay on a regular basis is the cost of the stupidity and lack of interest of the board members in doing the jobs they promised the public to do on the stump before they are elected.
A local newspaper points out that the city of Tampa just gave this same contractor a contract to build the Tampa Museum of Art. The publisher says: “ This company “built Symmes Elementary School in Riverview. That project’s walls cracked and buckled, causing $5 million dollars in damage. Did Skanska and its subcontractors stand behind their work? The settlement came to $1.5. The rest, $3.5, came out of the taxpayers’ pockets.”This bid situation illustrates the care that board members give to such business decisions that come out of a department whose head has an early-childhood degree.
The board approved the contract with the superintendent’s and the early-childhood head’s recommendation. Lawyer Gonzalez passed it as well. Lawyer Gonzalez has held the job for 37 years; he got it without its being advertised. He can be counted on to find some obscure precedent to justify any of the school-board or administration skullduggery. Then he hints that he will sue any citizen who points this situation out.
The jury in the Doug Erwin case ruled on the conduct of the school board, its lawyer, and the administration. The jury ruled for Mr. Erwin and against the school board and its administrative henchmen. That’s what the public would do at election time if it had the information that the school board and administration strive to keep behind a curtain of spin to fool the public about what really goes on in the schools under the criminally negligent attention of the members of the board.
With an administrative team of such ineptitude, the voters don’t have a chance. Stupidity and ripping off taxpayers in Hillsborough County occur
in a school system run by a witless, duplicitous, indifferent gaggle of board members.
Lee Drury De Cesare
15316 Gulf Boulevard 802
Madeira Beach, FL 33708
C: All members Hillsborough County School Board
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