Office of Governor Charlie Crist
State of Florida
400 S. Monroe St.
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001
May 2, 2008
You ran on a platform of concern for the schools. You should therefore know how far Hillsborough County is from good schools under the leadership of Superintendent Mary Ellen Elia and the lack of leadership of the school board, Candy Olson, April Griffith, Susan Valdes, Jack Lamb, Doretha Ethridge, Jennifer Falliera, and Carol Kurdell.
Ms. Elia leaves teachers entirely out of decisions that affect the classroom. She and the board refuse to give teachers and students a settled place on the school-board agenda. Ms. Elia dumped on teachers an extra class with no warning and with no extra pay. The board did not let out a peep of protest.
The board has fooled teachers that its members are on students' and teachers' side, but they are not. Their welcome to teachers and students when they come to a board meeting is far from hospitable. I have attended board meetings for two years. Never once have I heard a board member say, “We are always glad to hear from our teachers and students.” The board wants teachers and students to be the field hands that provide the basis of the board's pot of money so that its members can look grand and important by doling it out. When teachers attended the board meeting to protest the extra class without having had teacher input, then board chair Jack Lamb chastised teachers for clapping. He said clapping violated Roberts Rules.
Ms. Elia imposed a grade-inflation scheme making her look good in the state school bureaucracy, but teachers saw this as a sham way to make student performance look better on false grounds that would cripple students' chances of getting into a good college of their choice. Ms. Elia and the board did not discuss this program with teachers or ask for their input. They introduce or impose new regimens on the board dais as if teachers and students are irrelevant and as if only the board and administration are eligible to make decisions about what goes on in the classroom.
Ms. Elia's latest gambit of leaving out teachers' input is her purchasing of the expensive Spring program that has not worked in places where it has been tried. Ms. Elia's motive appears to be the same one as that in the grade-inflation scheme: to give Ms. Elia an elevated performance bonus. Ms. Elia's greed is notorious. She makes $300,000 a year although she has only a master's degree, reduced from the original requirement by the board so that she could qualify for the job for which well-qualified candidates with Ph.D.s, extensive experience, and publishing records had applied.
I reviewed the application files. Ms. Elia's application was the least impressive. Ms. Elia can't handle basic grammar and punctuation, but the board preferred an inside candidate for its own comfort level and to hell with the literacy of the school system's top person that parents expect to provide for their children what she can't perform herself.
One must also reveal that even though the board had pre-picked the inside candidate of in-house political corruption--Olson, Ethridge, Valdes, Falliero, Lamb, Kurdell (Griffin was not on the board then)-- its members had no compunction about wasting $35,000 of the taxpayers' money to cover their unethical tracks with “nation-wide” advertising for the position. The board of Hillsborough County's schools has not hired an outside superintendent since 1967.
An ongoing problem leading to mediocrity in the quality of the administration is that the board surrenders to Ms. Elia the patronage privilege of hiring without advertising cronies, sycophants, kin, and hangers-on for high-level administrative jobs with bloated pay. The result is that the decisions coming from these poorly equipped administrators without appropriate degrees or experience invite incompetent performance that the taxpayers must fund and also pay consultants to come in and clean up the messes into which these intellectually unequipped Elia cronies stumble into.
The head of transportation was a former bus driver under whose leadership the department came apart. The school board rushed in a $350,000 consultant which advised only two basic things for that pile of taxpayer money: get a routing computer program; park the buses in a convenient place.
Even average intelligence and competence at the top would have diagnosed and repaired these problems without the cost of a $350,000 pricey consultant. The taxpayers thus pay twice: one for the salary of the incompetent employee, another for an expensive consultant to ride in to fix the mess and teach the incompetent employee how to do his or her job.
The administration head of the technology department has not one computer credit in his resume. He has a degree in early childhood, not an academically challenging degrees, to be sure. The program for teacher pay checks got messed up under early-childhood Mr. Davis's watch greatly to the teachers' inconvenience. Perhaps had Mr. Jack Davis had a technology degree of more heft, this mess-up would not have happened. For the exorbitant salary Mr. Davis gets from the tax kitty, the board could have gotten a Ph.D. ace in computers.
Mr. Davis was one of the three top administrators involved in the famous Erwin case--won by Mr. Erwin before a jury-- who participated in the mistreatment of Mr. Erwin for his whistle-blowing of theft of school property, crooked bid procedures, shoddy buildings that leaked and suffered widespread water damage, and mishandling of funds. Mr. Davis, Dr. Hamilton, and Dr. Lennard wanted things to go on and not let the press get hold of the data Mr. Erwin tried for four years to get the top trio to pay attention to along with an unconcerned board. These three didn't care that criminal elements in the schools and administration were robbing taxpayers as long as they held on to their power and got their bloated salaries on time. But because nobody in administration ever gets punished for incompetence, Mr. Davis hung onto his job and put in an area for which he had not a bit of training:technology.
And where was the board during this festival of on-site criminality? Out to lunch—deliberately out to lunch: the board knows what's going on but pretends it is not aware of skullduggery so as not to be responsible for preventing such criminality on the school property. The board is in for the social eclat of the system, not for the hard work of making sure the crooks inside and outside the system are not robbing the taxpayers blind.
The next time on the hustings one such as Olson, Lamb, or Kurdell –incumbents during the Erwin era--say they promise during another irresponsible term to “save every penny of tax money for the sacred citizens,” some alert should rise to demand what they did during the Erwin-era crime spree.
Another early-childhood degree heads up building: Ms. Cathy Valdez, an Elia appointment. Recently a newly built school's walls collapsed, and since Ms. Valdez. the attorney, and the board had not required adequate insurance, the taxpayers had to pay several million dollars for contractor incompetence which replicates how the schools cited in the Erwin case exposed shoddy construction.
The taxpayers paid the price rubberstamped by the board for first-class buildings but got a third-class product. Mr. Erwin's begging, pleading, cajoling, and importuning Davis, Hamilton, and Lennard for four years to do something about such outrages in the system that he cited verbally and in writing to the lackadaisical received no attention until the press got wind of the situation at last, whereupon Mr. Erwin took reporters up on top of leaking buildings and showed them the holes in the roofs.
At that point, I rose and cheered while reading the trial's court papers. I lamented having no pom-poms so as to jump up and down to wave them for the rectitude of the moment and for Mr. Erwin's finally saying he was mad as hell and wasn't going to take it any more.
But the most egregious case of administrative incompetence laced with sicko sadism is that of the head of Professional Standards, Ms. Linda Kipley. This specimen has a home-ec degree and heads Professional Standards instead of Pots and Pans 101, an area for which her background suits her. One is, first of all, amazed that any institution of higher learning still has home-ec programs; second, that Ms. Elia has no better sense than to appoint this unqualified person to the head of Professional Standards.
The administration, as usual, did not advertise the job and simply put home-ec degreed Ms. Kipley into it with no competition for this $135,000 sinecure. The rumor is that teachers at Hillsborough High rebelled against her principalship there and refused to go into a conference with her without a tape recorder because rumor says that in addition to Ms. Kipley' shallow academic credentials, her addiction to lying is also a problem. I am wroth that the likes of Ms. Kipley, a home-ec savant, was principal at my alma mater, Hillsboroough High. Mr. Vivian Gaither was my principal. Mr. Vivian Gaither was a Latin scholar and a gentleman. A home-ec practitioner with a taste for double-dealing and sadism is a big come-down from a Latin scholar and a gentleman.
To top things off, Mr. Linda Kipley just got a job as accountant that cited a college degree and experience in accounting in the requirements of the job description. Mr. Linda Kipley had neither. There were 19 applicants, fifteen of whom were already employed in the schools. I examined five of the outside number's applications and am awaiting the other fifteen's applications to examine. Three had college degrees of those I examined. Two had accounting degrees. One had a college degree in accounting with extensive experience as an accountant.
Yet Mr. Linda Kipley with no degree at all and no accounting experience got the job. The screening process apparently did not examine the applicants in areas that the job description says is vitally important for the position: writing ability and acquaintance with high-end accounting computer programs.
So much for the careful screening of those whom taxpayers pay to work in the school system: and the untrained and uneducated such as Mr. Linda Kipley get the job simply because Ms. Elia owes his wife favors for having done her retaliation dirty work against teachers and staff whom Ms. Elia wants to frighten into silence about her dictatorial regime.
Ms. Elia's order to hire her buddy in skullduggery against teachers and staff got immediate attention and acquiescence from all involved.
And what did the board do about this spoliation of equal-employment-opportunity that they swear by with fingers crossed behind their backs? Nothing, just it did nothing during the Irwin debacle.
This appointment was a slap in the face for teachers, who have negative feelings about Ms. Kipley for her reputation of sadism in her job as head of Professional Standards and for her reputation of twisting the truth about teachers and staff who go through her office so as to terrify them about losing their jobs such as was the case in the Bart Birdsall pseudo case cooked up by Les Kipley and Elia. One teacher said Ms. Kipley ordered her not to tell people what went on in her punishment in The Professional Standards Abu Ghraib. The Kipley Professional Standards cell block abrogates the First Amendment one sees.
I became interested in the way the administration and board ran the Professional Standards department because Ms. Elia and Ms. Kipley cooked up a case against a friend who is a media specialist in the schools to make it appear he had violated the rule against using the college emails for personal issues. That case was entirely fabricated by Elia, Kipley, and Davis is my inference. Ms. Elia is friends with Ms. Bean, top administrator of the County. My friend Mr. Birdsall had objected from his home computer to the doing away with gays' access to all services of the County library authored by Commissioner Ronda Storms. Ms. Elia told me and Birdsall at Tiger Bay, at which she had spoken, that she passed on the Birdsall e-mails composed at his home to Ms. Kiley because she did not know how to read the "to" and “from” lines of an email. Ms. Elia's judgment ranks so faulty that she expected two teachers to believe this claptrap.
From La Gaceta's recent "As We Heard It, ” in which the publisher, Patrick Manteiga, comments on the long negative history of the school board's hiring record:
The Hillsborough County School System has a reputation with those who work there of hiring and promoting people who are connected or related to those in charge. Stories of favoritism are rampant. This reputation and practice creates an unhealthy work environment. Many employees feel blackballed and trapped because they offended the wrong person. Most know loyalty to the right boss is more rewarded than proficiency or honesty. In this atmosphere, how can the school system claim to be an equal opportunity employer?
The school district needed an accountant II in the District Auditing Office. The individual would perform audits that could involve worker’s compensation, health insurance, transportation, textbook, inventory, maintenance, nutrition service and a host of other areas. This individual could perform audits that encompass budgets from $50 - $500 million. Skills needed are organizing documentation, writing procedural memorandums and communicating with audiences of differing accounting backgrounds. Four years of college or acceptable accounting experience are required. Nineteen people applied, many already in the system, and some with applicable experience.
The $36,000 job was awarded to Tom Kipley. His résumé documents jobs at Home Depot Pro Home Sales, Robbins Manufacturing and a host of electrical and air conditioning contractors. His experience is inside and outside sales., construction and customer service. He did not graduate college and has no clearly listed accounting experience. So why did this guy get the job over others, some who clearly have related experience?
Some speculate that Tom Kipley, being the husband of Linda Kipley, could have influenced the outcome. Linda Kipley is the general manager for professional standards for the school district. She’s the one who investigated employees for wrongdoing. She is the district’s top internal affairs cop.
We’d ask the district to investigate if favoritism occurred in this hire, but we have a feeling that Linda Kipley would find no evidence that her husband, Tom. received any special consideration."
Mr. Crist, A governor who promised attention to education will not let a school system's slovenly school board and bullying, ill-qualified administration blunder in the unethical leadership that taxpayers fund without the scrutiny of a governor's review committee to examine the malfeasance that goes on in the leadership of schools in Hillsborough County.
c: Doretha Edgecomb; Jack Lamb; Susan Valdez; Jennifer Falliero; Candy Olson; April Griffin;
lee drury de cesare
15316 Gulf Blvd. 802
Madeira Beach, FL 33708